Tag Archives: middle grade

Blue Ribbon Trail Ride by Miralee Ferrell

Book Review – Blue Ribbon Trail Ride by Miralee Ferrell

Blue Ribbon Trail Ride by Miralee Ferrell

From the publisher:

Blue Ribbon Trail Ride by Miralee Ferrell (David C Cook, 2016 – Book #4 of the Horses and Friends series)

Thirteen-year old Kate and her friends came up with the perfect way to raise money for her autistic younger brother and others to attend summer camp—a horse scavenger hunt! As local businesses donate money and prizes, Kate keeps the entry fees in her mom’s antique jewelry box.
But when the box and the money disappear, Kate and her friends must unravel the clues, hold on to hope, and solve the mystery along the Blue Ribbon Trail Ride.

My thoughts:

The good: The main character in this book (and series), Kate, has several faults, which is good because it makes her more relatable and realistic. She’s hasty to judge others and often needs to backtrack on her verbal actions to apologize and make amends. This flaw is great to tie-in to middle grade novels because we all need practice with choosing words. The horses are also a highlight of this book (and series). Most of the riders ride English (dressage, flatwork, and jumping), but mention is made of Western riding, as well. The connection between horse and rider is described well and very enjoyable to read. We also see the most variety in character personalities and backgrounds in this book of the series.

A few cautions: I feel most of the book “talks down” to the middle grade reader. Much of the book’s lessons are blatantly told to the reader through outright inner and external dialogue rather than allowing the reader to infer morals/themes from character actions and plot conflicts. (Lots of “telling” rather than “showing.”) Dialogue is also often used to move the plot along rather than actual action, dulling the reading experience at times. The “friends” characters within the book are around 13 years old, yet their dialogue is somewhat unrealistic (problems are solved too quickly, dialogue feels better suited to 8- and 9-year-olds talking at many points). Some readers and families may agree with many of the stereotypical boy-girl remarks made throughout the story, but some may find it limiting.
*Special note for families with special needs: I believe that the author genuinely tried to include a child with autism realistically, however I do have to warn that many special needs families may take offense to how autism is referenced in these books. I am a mother of a child with special needs (though not autism), and it stung to read that the child’s family referred to him as “needing to be fixed” or “growing out of autism.” I do not believe that the author meant any harm, but I feel it worth mentioning as a caution.

Horse-loving preteens will probably enjoy this series, regardless of its faults. It also teaches good lessons, though perhaps not always realistically solved, and the lesson become more of the focus of this story than the plot and adventure.

Check out the Litfuse page for more information about this book and author.

Which horse-related books are your family’s favorites for middle grade readers?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher as a part of the Litfuse blogging team in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest by J. A. Myhre

Book Review – A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest by J. A. Myhre

A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest by J. A. Myhre

About the book:

Mu, a ten-year-old orphan, has lived his entire life in the heart of Africa. For as long as he can remember he has served in the household of a great-uncle where he is unloved and ignored. In his drudgery-filled life, Mu has little hope of happiness, and little hope that anything will ever change.
But one day, everything does change. On his way to draw water one morning, Mu is astonished when a chameleon greets him by name and announces that they will embark on a quest together. And what a quest it turns out to be! Mu faces danger and finds unexpected allies as they journey through a fascinating and ever-changing landscape.
A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest by J. A. Myrhe (New Growth Press, 2015) blends magical realism with a compelling story. The exciting story line combines an orphan’s journey to find a home with the plight of child soldiers and the dangers of the Ebola virus and, along the way, highlights universal themes of integrity, loyalty, faith, and love. Written by long-time medical missionary J. A. Myrhe, the artful story is laced with subtle gospel themes and handles cross-cultural issues with grace and sensitivity. Kids will encounter good and evil and learn the truth about hope, happiness, and what it means to be human in this page-turning first book in a new series.

My thoughts:

The best parts of this book are the setting details when tied in with the character action. Several beautiful phrases conjure setting and draw the reader into visualizing this world, like this sentence on page 12: “Children trickled into the road like pink petals on a slow current.” The overall adventure Mu, Tita, and Botu travel on is interesting with a bit of mystery as to what the full quest is for Mu.

That said, much of this book reads as if it’s for adults rather than children. The perspective is third person, mostly from Mu’s point-of-view, yet it sounds more like an adult telling the story than Mu telling the story. The tone is full of more description than action in many places. This leaves little white space on the pages and slows down the pace. Several sentences at the end of chapters also repeat information already known or review actions occurred, as if to remind readers what they just read, which is likely unnecessary for the intended audience age.

But the themes woven within offer good points of conversation between readers (or parents/teachers and readers) to discuss cultural differences, war/rebellion, trust, friendship, family, survival, care/respect for animals/nature, having the choice between good and evil, and forgiveness.

Read more about the book here.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher as a part of the Litfuse blogging team in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

The Looney Experiment by Luke Reynolds

Book Review – The Looney Experiment by Luke Reynolds

I love when fiction tells such a relatable, powerful story that the reader has to consider their own lives, their own judgments/thoughts, and how to change the world around them because of actions told within a story.

When I find myself talking about a book to others around me while and after I read it, I know it’s impacting me in positive and challenging ways. The Looney Experiment by Luke Reynolds (Thomas Nelson/Blink, 2015) was one I found easy to want to talk about.

The Looney Experiment by Luke Reynolds

From the publisher:

Atticus Hobart couldn’t feel worse. Not only does he have the world’s most overactive imagination, he’s in love with a girl he can’t talk to, is the class bully’s personal punching bag, and to top it all off, his dad just left the family. Into this drama steps Mr. Looney, an older than dirt and crazier than insanity itself seventy-seven-year-old substitute English teacher with a very unconventional approach to teaching. But Atticus soon discovers there’s more to Mr. Looney’s methods than he’d first thought. And as Atticus begins to unlock the meaning behind his own name, he finds that his imagination can help him forge his own voice, and maybe-just maybe-show him that the power to face his problems was inside him all along.

My thoughts:

If I could give comparable tiles for this book, I’d actually liken it to something like the school-focused movie Stand and Deliver in many ways and even a little like Dead Poets Society in regards to the teacher (not necessarily so in plot, so don’t worry). The teacher, Mr. Looney, is an inspiring, interesting, unique character full of intrigue and wisdom (but wisdom shared in relatable and readable ways). The main character, Atticus, also offers much for readers to relate to — he’s not popular, he has struggles at home, he feels he’s unable to please his father and finds it hard to connect with possible friends.

The plot keeps the reader turning with action, questions, thoughtful observations and more. The author paces the information revealed and action very well, with high intensity scenes following by “quieter” scenes to allow the reader to recover and consider. While this isn’t a perfect book (I wondered why no one would see or hear one instance of bullying in the school … noise carried very easily in the halls of my high school; the ending felt a bit rushed though wrapped up satisfactorily without everything ending “perfectly”), it’s one that could spark important and needed conversations for ages 13ish and up. (Because of some tough themes, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend under 13, and definitely pre-read first for that age or younger.) The author weaves themes of bullying, acceptance, unconditional love, true community, the negative impact of seeking power, truth, true courage, and redemption in various ways.

Teachers (and parents) reading this book along with their students/kids can ask questions to gather what their readers feel about these realistic situations (with both school relationships and family relationships). The book also incorporates a bit of literature (namely, To Kill a Mockingbird, but also a bit more) and information about reading and writing/revising that could spur an educational unit along with the book.

“Courage is the ability to keep going no matter how hard life feels.” – p. 160

What is one of your (or your family’s) favorite books that cause to reflect and actually inspire change your own thoughts/actions?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher as a part of the BookLook blogger program in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates and GrapeVine Studies. If you click on an Amazon link or a GrapeVine Studies link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.