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The Shakespeare Stealer–and an Interview with Author Gary Blackwood

The Shakespeare Stealer (1998), Shakespeare’s Scribe (2000), and Shakespeare’s Spy (2003), by Gary Blackwood.  Penguin Group; Puffin Books.  Age/interest level: 12-16. True story: in 1998 I was shopping around a manuscript about a 14-year-old boy in 16th-century London who through a series of happy misfortunes becomes an actor in William Shakespeare’s theater company.  Before starting […]

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Middle Grade Fiction with Fibonacci, Tesla, and More!

When I was a child I read large numbers of mysteries and was always somewhat irritated when I had to go to math class. I did just fine in math class, but all that specificity got in the way of my more verbal and creative side. If you have children that sound like this–or, believe it […]

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Adventuring with Wilder Good, Gannon & Wyatt, and a Giveaway!

NOTE: The giveaway contest is closed–congratulations to Nellie, who recommended Ivanhoe as her favorite adventure story.  “High interest” children’s literature (see our explanation here), covers many genres and age levels.  Today we look at some worthy titles in the travel/adventure genre for middle graders–and you, lucky reader, may have a chance to win three of […]

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America, the Future: Divided We Fall and Sylo

This month we’re looking at some YA and middle-grade titles that could be described as “high-interest”: maybe not top-notch on the literary side, but stories that grab you and don’t let go.  These two YA novels certainly qualify in the “interest” department, but also contain some thought-provoking material–especially the first.  And speaking of “high-interest,” the […]

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Ukraine: Lessons in Liberty and Compassion, Pt. 2

Last week, we began our Ukrainian series with a personal reflection from our executive assistant, Hayley.  Having recently visited orphans in Ukraine, Hayley gave us insight into their situation, which is only made more tenuous by the current political upheaval.  And most importantly, she gave us a detailed look at how we (and our kids!) […]

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Sequelville: in Which We Follow up on Some Old Favorites

Sometimes fans of a popular book DEMAND a sequel (see Origami Yoda, below), and sometimes the entire series is planned out from the beginning.  Whether a series conclusion lives up to its promise is another story, but all of these sequels have their charms.  Click on the highlighted title of the previous book to read […]

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Middle Grade Winners: Cheesie Mack and Jack Strong

We’ve written about “middle-grade losers” before–those feckless, clueless fifth-and-sixth grader boys (exhibit A being The Wimpy Kid) so popular with boy readers of that age and younger.  Here we try to balance the ledger with a couple of fifth- and sixth-graders who have a lot going for them, but just a few little problems appropriate […]

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The Man with the Violin

 One ordinary Friday morning in January, a famous musician in disguise descended into the busy Metro station in Washington share the glory of his music with an unsuspecting public. Joshua Bell, a virtuoso violinist, played his priceless instrument with skill and passion. Hardly anyone noticed in the rush. A few children gazed curiously while […]

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Dragons and Time Fetches: More Middle-Grade Fantasy

Handbook for Dragon Slayers, by Merrie Haskell.  HarperCollins, 2013, 226 pages.  Age/interest level: 10-up. When our story begins, Tilda, age 13, has no interest in dragon-slaying; she just wants to write the definitive book on the subject.  Or the definitive book about something.  Due to a lame foot and a retiring personality, she’d just like […]

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Bullies and Buddies: Two Acclaimed Graphic Novels

Tommysaurus Rex, by Doug TenNapel, Scholastic (Graphix), 2013, 238 pages.  Age/interest level: 8-12. Ely’s best friend is a dog, which seems pretty normal except that Tommy (the dog) is his only friend.  Ely’s parents worry about this, but worry takes a back seat when Tommy is hit by a car.  To help Ely get his […]

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On the Court and in the Woods: Books for Teen Boys

Will in Scarlet, by Matthew Cody.  Knopf, 20134, 272 pages.  Age/interest level: 12-up. We’re introduced to William Shackley as a callow, nervous 14-year-old on his first real wolf hunt.  He has expectations to live up to: heir apparent to the family estate while his father is away crusading with Richard the Lionheart, he’s spent most […]

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