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There are flying horses need I say more?

Over the Moon is another richly imagined Natalie Lloyd tale full of heart and magic. It reminds us that the future is not set. It is what you make of it. Twelve year-old Mallie lives in the town of Coal Top where the wealthy live in mansions and the rest work in the mine or slave as maids. It wasn’t always this way. There are stories of flying horses and those who could weave magic into cloth. When men come to take Mallie’s little brother to work in the mine to pay off their family’s debts Mallie is desperate to come up with a plan to save him. She poses as a boy to enter a contest where riders will collect gold dust from the mountains. This is complicated by the fact she only has one arm. Nothing slows Mallie down however. Soon she is riding a winged horse and with the help of her friend Adam uncovers the real reason the town is covered with dust. There is a way to change things and bring the magic of old back. Rich lyrical writing makes this story a wonderful read-out loud. The powerful message of hope makes it a must read. It is highly recommended.

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Review by Sherry Ellis
Aside from the loss of their father and subsequent move, things were fairly normal for Chess, Emma, and Finn Greystone. Then they learn of the kidnapping of three children in Arizona…all with the same first and middle names, birthdays, and ages. It’s a startling. When their mom suddenly leaves and has them stay with a neighbor, it gets downright crazy. What ensues next is a journey into a parallel universe to find their mom and save the other kidnapped children.
The Strangers is a highly suspenseful middle-grade novel full of complex codes, mystery, and adventure. The characters are well-developed and interesting. The interaction between them is realistic and often times humorous.  Short chapters keep the story moving along. Since it ends on a cliffhanger, there will certainly be more books in the series. The Strangers is a book that would appeal to middle-grade readers who enjoy sci-fi/fantasy and mystery stories.

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Congratulations to our own mafia family member, Lisa Lewis Tyre, on the paperback release of her award winning MG book, Hope In The Holler. This is a touching story about the true meaning of family and friendships.

ABOUT HOPE IN THE HOLLER

“This is a masterpiece of middle grade fiction, at once summoning the timelessness of life in rural America while blending in modern elements. . . . Wavie’s sincere narration and upbeat optimism carry her through the dark mysteries surrounding Conley Holler, and her close friendships with Gilbert and Camille are reminiscent of the young leads in J.K. Rowling’s wizarding novels. Meanwhile, Samantha Rose is a devious villain worthy of a Roald Dahl novel. . . . With well-written prose, a masterfully realized world, and characters that linger long after the novel closes, this is a must-purchase.”School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Wavie has a delightfully memorable first-person voice that includes pithy observations. . . . She’s so engaged with the people around her that her perceptions breathe full life into a range of characters. . . . A moving and richly engaging tale of despair and redemption.”Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Anyone who’s spent time in the holler will recognize Conley Hollow, from its ramshackle double-wides to the old graveyard to the creek, all depicted with tenderness. . . . There’s much to savor: family secrets, budding friendships, and the never-extinguishing love of a mother for her daughter. A touching sophomore effort in which everyone is kin of one sort or another.”Booklist

Congralations Lisa!


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Seventh-grader Amelia is facing a boring Spring Break. Her professor father hates to travel so no trip to Florida for them. Amelia goes to the pottery studio where she spends most of her free time. When she gets there, she’s surprised to meet Casey, the studio owner’s nephew. Casey is spending spring break with his aunt Louise while his parents get marriage counseling.

Amelia has never met anyone like Casey. His imagination and creativity fascinates her.  When Casey imagines that a woman is following Amelia and that woman is Amelia’s long-dead mother, things get weird quick. Amelia’s mother died when she was only two-years-old so she doesn’t remember her at all. Could it be that she didn’t die and she’s come back for Amelia? Has her emotionally distant father been keeping a secret from her?

This sweet, simple story about a not-so-boring Spring Break is delightful and insightful. Full of conflicting emotions and active imaginations, it reminded me what it was like to be a tween.  Readers that enjoy a nuanced story full of heart will love this one.

 Kevin Henkes has received Newbery Honors for The Year of Billy Miller and Olive’s Ocean. This is his newest middle grade novel which was released in March 2019. Henkes is also an award-winning picture book author with a Caldecott Medal and two Caldecott Honors.  If you haven’t read any of his books yet, I highly recommend that you do.

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Just released in March, Tangled in Time: The Portal is a magical adventure into the life of English royalty in the 1500s. After a personal tragedy in her current-day life, Rose Ashley travels through a mysterious portal in her grandmother’s greenhouse to the time of King Henry VIII. Although living 500 years in the past has its own challenges, the time travel is an escape from the pain of losing her mother and dealing with the ‘mean queens’ at school.

The story switches back and forth from present day to 500 years in the past. Rose goes from texting her friends and posting on her fashion blog to being a house servant for Princess Elizabeth and playing games with Prince Edward. The portal is not just an escape but a place that holds clues into Rose’s past and the true identity of her family.

The reader also learns fascinating details about the 1500s including rich descriptions of the amazing wardrobes and interesting facts like they only wash their clothes once every three months. With a diverse cast of characters, this book is the perfect story for any middle-grade girl.


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This is sure to be a classic in children’s science fiction.

Ten- year old Maisie is a science genius who dreams of building her own nuclear reactor. When she wakes up on her birthday to an empty house and blackness outside her front door that seems to be expanding, she panics. Did one of her experiments go wrong? Can she stay one step ahead of the blackness and piece together what happened?

Told in alternating chapters from two different time lines, we piece together what must have happened only to be surprised by a clever twist. The Infinite Lives of Maise Day will tug at your heart and make you think about science in a way you never thought possible. This is a must read!

Nominated for the 2019 CILIP Carnegie Medal. Shortlisted for the STEAM Children’s Book Prize, the Leeds Book Award, the Derbyshire Schools’ Book Award, the Wolverhampton Children’s Book Award, the Ysgol Bae Baglan Book Award and the Brilliant Book Award. Longlisted for the Leicester Libraries Our Best Book Award and the Berkshire Book Award.

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About the Book:  Who hasn’t dreamed of going to the moon? That dream for eleven-year-old Leo Gray is about to come true—but he’s in for the surprise of his life! 

In the year 2113, most people live in robotically maintained homes, ride around in self-flying cars, and wear ozone-resistant clothes. Most people that is; just not Leo Gray’s parents. They’re stuck in the past, and science know-it-all Leo is completely fed up with his beyond-embarrassing living arrangement with them. But when he enters a rocket-building competition for a chance to attend the Lunar Academy, Leo’s luck finally seems to turn in his favor!

However, it’s not long after stepping foot into his dorm room that Leo discovers the moon’s celebrated city is harboring a world of dark secrets. It’s soon a race against the clock for Leo and his friends Andromeda Groves (a code-hacking whiz from Canada), Pavo Digbi (a history buff from Brazil), and Grus Pinwheel (a musically gifted and comically endearing Aussie) to intercept and foil plans to destroy the city—leaving the group’s leader faced with a decision that no eleven-year-old should ever have to make: save Earth or save himself and the city he fought so hard to reach. Leo Gray and the Lunar Eclipse is an epic adventure set in a wonderfully imaginative, futuristic world overflowing with robots, anti-gravity sports, superhero-esque suspense, and page after page of laughter and heart that will leave boys and girls equally gripped under its spell!

About the Author: K.J. Kruk, an award-winning visual artist and proud patron of the literary arts, is a fresh name to the world of books—but rest assured, this name is one to get excited about! Having combined a passion for drawing and writing, K. J. Kruk has created a highly imaginative futuristic world that is bound to ignite young minds for years to come! With impeccable command of the English language and a solid dose of humor, K. J. Kruk will leave readers thirsting to know: What comes after Leo Gray and the Lunar Eclipse?


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Author Illustrator Marcus Emerson is at it again with the second installment in the Super Life of Ben Braver series – BEN BRAVER AND THE INCREDIBLE EXPLODING KID. We will bring you a review in the coming weeks, so in the meantime, order a copy of both for you and your MG reader!

About the Book: The Super Life of Ben Braver: The Incredible Exploding Kid is jam-packed with art and comic strips. It’s another wacky adventure from Marcus Emerson, the author behind the hit Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja series!

“A crazy fun ride―action packed and loaded with laughs!” ―Max Brallier, The Last Kids on Earth

Even though Ben Braver saved Kepler Academy from total destruction last year, he knows he still doesn’t fit in at his secret middle school for kids with special abilities. Ben’s been hiding his lack of super skills, but it’s getting harder as his classmates’ powers are getting stronger.

Will Ben be able to power up before his enemies at school take him down? And will he risk everything to become the ultimate superhero?

About the Author: Marcus Emerson is the author of the hit Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja series, the Secret Agent 6th Grader series, and the Recess Warriors series. He lives in Eldridge, Iowa, with his wife and children.

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Middle school students are assigned readings all the time, but when given a choice (and not distracted by other forms of electronic media) what books do they want to read? What speaks to them; inspires them; entertains them? Barbara Truluck is a middle school counselor and recipient of 2018 Middle School Counselor of the Year for Cobb County schools (the second largest school district in the state of Georgia). We asked her about the reading habits of today’s middle school students.

Middle Grade Mafia: How important is it for children to read books with characters that are similar to them in race, socioeconomic, religious backgrounds, etc? 

Barbara Truluck: As a middle school counselor, I know the importance of students
developing a multicultural perspective in order to function in our diverse world. However, kids first need to understand who they are and develop their own self-identity which is a developmental skill.  As children grow and change through adolescence they are continually learning their own personality, gaining knowledge of their own skills and abilities, and developing an awareness of their own physical attributes. Understanding who they are, their ethnic background, their values, and beliefs must be developed before they can look at their relationship to the world and more importantly create the person they want to be.

In the developmental theory of Erickson’s Identity vs. Role Confusion, adolescents must struggle to discover and find his or her own identity, develop a sense of right and wrong, and find where they “fit in” socially.  A strong sense of personal identity helps kids build their self-esteem, feel part of their culture and family, and build confidence in an overall sense of belonging. This is why, in my experience, both in the classroom and in school counseling, I see students gravitate to reading books about characters that are similar to themselves in race, socioeconomic, interests, and religious backgrounds. While children are in the developmental stage of self-identity, relating to characters like themselves help builds character and strengthen their own positive identity.

MGM: Many books explore some difficult topics like poverty and racism, etc. Do you find kids pick up these books on their own? Do you recommend them to kids who are experiencing similar problems? 

BT: The adolescents I work with every day as a school counselor are for the most part interested in reading fantasy and fiction. They are not at the developmental age yet where books purely on social justice issues are their motivation to read.  However, children have a keen awareness of fairness and differences from themselves. Current research suggests that when children are exposed to prejudice and racism they can unlearn any bias when exposed to diversity in a positive way. In today’s society, there are disagreements regarding what constitutes justice and which values are considered right and wrong. Today’s educators and children’s book authors need to be sensitive not to usurp parents prerogative and perspectives in shaping their children’s ethical beliefs, values, and morals.

MGM: What kind of books are kids in middle-school drawn to these days?

BT: The tween years are a time of turbulent change and character building. Let’s face it, in today’s fast-paced technology world, the majority of kid’s I see prefer social media outlets and the constant cell phone usage over reading. We have seen a drastic drop in reading Lexile scores with this generation. As educators, we are seeing that many students are so addicted to social media they cannot part with their cell phone long enough to pick-up a book to read. Middle schoolers are still moving through Piaget’s stages of cognitive development and become extremely egocentric and care more about the opinions of their peers than anyone else. Social media feeds that need.

When adolescents do read, they most often choose to read literature that mirrors themselves and their peers. They chose books created from the imagination like mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, and uplifting stories that inspire them to dream. That is why kids like to escape when they read a story. Children like to envision themselves in-bedded in the story. During this time of self-centeredness, middle school students want to be inspired and yearn for positive story themes.

There is so much negativism in the world today when kids sit down to read a book they want to be inspired and uplifted. Kids love books where good wins over evil and the main characters resolve their issues in a positive manner.

Barbara Truluck, M.Ed., NCC, NCSC; 2018 Cobb County Middle School Counselor of the Year; ASCA School Counselor Leadership Specialist. Barbara taught middle school for twelve years before becoming a school counselor.
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Last year, we had the privilege to interview Kamilla Benko, author of The Unicorn Quest series. We are happy to have Kamilla back on the blog in front of her upcoming release of the latest in the saga, THE UNICORN QUEST: SECRET IN THE STONE. She also has a wonderful news of another project, but you’ll have to read on to get the scoop!

Middle Grade Mafia: What’s something you absolutely knew would be in book 2 while you were writing book 1? What took you totally by surprise?

Kamilla Benko: I knew Claire and Sophie would meet a particular character. . . but what took me by surprise was how they ended up initially meeting! I can’t say much more than that without majorly spoiling something.

MGM: What was the most interesting part of writing a sequel? Did this help you flex any different writing muscles than book 1?

KB: Sequels are hard. Very, very, very hard. Especially sequels that are supposed to bridge to a third installment! They need to raise the stakes of Book 1, have an epic ending – but still leave room for an even more epic finale! Writing Book 2 meant that I had to be very focused on details, because I had to commit to the details I wrote in Book 1, but also seed in details that are vital for Book 3 to make sense, and while I’m always an outliner, in the case of Secret in the Stone I had to learn to really stick to my gut and my original outline that I was very used to having to do.

MGM: What are you most excited about for book 3?

KB: One of the first things I came up for the series was the ending. I’ve had the end in mind since 2015, and I’m so excited to finally be able to write what’s been in my mind’s eye all this time.

MGM: We also heard your exciting news about an upcoming Disney book! How can Frozen fans relate to the UNICORN series?

KB: It’s been an incredible dream come true to work with Disney and particularly with Frozen which is such an incredible story about sisterhood. Both stories focus on a pair of opposite-minded sisters—Anna and Elsa, Claire and Sophie— family secrets, and internal magic. They are really very similar in themes, and so sinking into Anna and Elsa’s characters very much felt like coming home.

About the Author:  Kamilla Benko spent most of her childhood climbing into wardrobes, trying to step through mirrors, and plotting to run away to an art museum. Now, she visits other worlds as a children’s book editor. Originally from Indiana, she currently lives in New York with her bookshelves, teapot, and hiking boots.

Don’t miss out on great content from the Mafia! Have agency news, author interviews, book reviews, etc. delivered straight from your In-Box by entering your email address in the Subscribe Form at the top/right of the page.


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