Bite-Sized Middle Grade Reviews – Nocturnals Books 1 & 2, Towers Falling, Egg & Spoon

September 21, 2016 Middle Grade, Reviews 4 ★★★★


A few quick reviews of some of the middle grade books I’ve read (or listened to) recently. Hopefully these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!

the-mysterious-abductionsThe Mysterious Abductions by Tracy Hecht
Series: The Nocturnals #1
Published by Fabled Films Press on 4/19/16
Genres: Middle GradeMystery
Pages: 232
Source: BEA
My content rating: MG (Nothing particularly scary or inappropriate)
***These books can be read by Middle Graders, but are also appropriate for much younger kids, especially if read aloud (at home or in a classroom setting).***
My rating:
4 Stars

A flabbergastifying adventure under the stars!

“The characters are delightful and the nighttime landscape is captivating. It was just as I expected—because the best stories always take place in the dark!—R.L. Stine, author of Goosebumps

The Nocturnals features three unlikely friends: Dawn, a serious fox, Tobin, a sweet pangolin and Bismark, the loud mouthed, pint sized sugar glider. The stories all play out in their nighttime world with teamwork, friendship and humor in every adventure.

In The Mysterious Abductions, the animals form a brigade of the night after a random encounter with a blood-thirsty snake, and just in time because something is threatening their night realm. Animals are disappearing without a trace. Together with the help of a wombat, a band of coyotes and many others, Dawn, Tobin and Bismark journey to the depths of the earth in a wacky, high stakes game that will determine all of their survival.

My Take copy3

This was a super-cute middle grade read that introduces kids to animals they might not otherwise have encountered. The three main characters are a sugar glider, a red fox, and a pangolin. Don’t know what a pangolin is? Neither did I. Which is one of the reasons I love this series. The author managed to incorporate lots of facts about these animals (and the others featured in the story, such as wombats, jerboas, kiwis, bats, coyotes and crocodiles) into the story relatively seamlessly. That makes the books educational without feeling educational–the best way for kids to learn! For instance, pangolin’s tongue is particularly fascinating–you’ll need to read the book to find out why. The website for the series also has fun videos for kids and educational materials for booksellers, educators and librarians (I personally love the science info about the animals), so it’s perfect for a classroom. I plan to share these books with other families in our homeschool co-op because they’re such a fantastic resource!

As far as the story goes, it was an intriguing mystery. Animals have been disappearing, and Dawn, Tobin and Bismark take it upon themselves to investigate. I enjoyed the fact that the mystery wasn’t too complex for middle graders, but it also wasn’t super simple and easy to figure out–I hadn’t guessed what was happening OR why, but there were definitely some good clues, so the answers didn’t feel like they came from nowhere. Personally, I wasn’t super excited about the part of the book that featured long descriptions of playing a sport that ended up being central to the mystery (I’m just not sports-minded), BUT I think this part of the story is probably perfect for many middle grade boys. I also thought that sometimes Bismark’s antics were a little over-the-top, but my 12-year-old daughter didn’t seem to mind at all—and again, she’s the target audience. So, for me the story itself hovered around 3.5 stars, but for my daughter it was a solid 4 (she wanted to read the next book right away), and I loved the educational aspects, so I ended up at 4/5 Stars.

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via #BEA16 in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

ominous-eyeThe Ominous Eye by Tracy Hecht
Series: The Nocturnals #2
Published by Fabled Films Press on 9/20/16
Genres: Middle GradeMystery
Pages: 208
Source: The Publisher
My content rating: MG (Nothing particularly scary or inappropriate)
My rating:
4 Stars

When a violent jolt fractures the earth, the Nocturnal Brigade sets out to investigate its source. Along their journey, Dawn, Bismark, and Tobin meet an unfamiliar reptile—a tuatara named Polyphema—who reveals that a giant beast caused the destruction and will soon strike again. Polyphema with her special insights, is the only one who can help them stop this fearsome predator… but can she be trusted? With help from an owl, the jerboas, and some kiwis, the animals set a trap since surrender is not an option against this relentless beast.

My Take copy3

Just like the first book, this one introduces kids to new animals (A tuatara? What the heck is that?) and scientific concepts in a really fun and engaging way. 

I actually enjoyed the story in this book even more than I did in the first. Once again, our trio of unlikely heroes is trying to solve a mystery: in this case, they’re trying to discover what beast is threatening their home and why. There are some hints of the supernatural in this book (that turn out to be not so supernatural)—an element that many young fantasy readers will enjoy. I did figure out parts of the mystery in this one relatively early on, but that was okay (younger readers probably wouldn’t pick up on them so easily). And there were still plenty of interesting surprises. I also felt like Bismark was toned down just a little bit in this second book (or maybe I simply got used to him?), so I appreciated that. I’m still loving this series and I look forward to the next one! 4/5 Stars.

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

towers-fallingTowers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on 7/12/16
Genres: Middle GradeContemporary
Pages: 240
Source: BEA
My content rating: MG (Some descriptions of 9/11 that may be a bit scary)
My rating:
4 Stars

From award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes, a powerful novel set fifteen years after the 9/11 attacks.

When her fifth-grade teacher hints that a series of lessons about home and community will culminate with one big answer about two tall towers once visible outside their classroom window, Deja can’t help but feel confused. She sets off on a journey of discovery, with new friends Ben and Sabeen by her side. But just as she gets closer to answering big questions about who she is, what America means, and how communities can grow (and heal), she uncovers new questions, too. Like, why does Pop get so angry when she brings up anything about the towers?

Award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes tells a powerful story about young people who weren’t alive to witness this defining moment in history, but begin to realize how much it colors their every day.

My Take copy3

This book takes a tragic event from fifteen years ago and shows how it still affects our nation today, a concept that many middle graders don’t grasp—fifteen years ago can often feel like ancient history to a kid this age. One major plus is that the book tackles diversity in significant ways, showing how 9/11 affected not only those who were directly involved but also the mindset toward people of middle eastern descent. The three main characters, Deja, Ben and Sabeen, all have different ethnicities and backgrounds, and I loved the friendship that they shared. The book also sheds light on the issue of homelessness since Deja is homeless.

This is a perfect book for the classroom because it’s set in one, and the kids are really trying to think critically about history and why it matters to them. My only worry would be that this focus might turn readers outside of the classroom off a bit because it might make the book feel too “educational.” Still, the themes are important and well thought out.

One other note: This book describes the events of 9/11 in some detail. Deja watches a video of the tragedy and is horrified to see things like people jumping from the windows of the buildings. I’m actually not sure my (ultra-sensitive) twelve-year-old will be able to read this book because of these somewhat graphic (for kids) descriptions. Parents and teachers should be aware that this book may not be appropriate for all kids because of this.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via #BEA16 in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

egg-and-spoonEgg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire
Published by Candlewick Press on Brilliance Audio in September 2014
Genres: Middle GradeFantasy
Pages: 475   Audio Length: 12 hrs and 43 mins
Source: SYNC
My content rating: MG (Nothing particularly scary or inappropriate)
My rating:
3.5 Stars

A fantasy set in Tsarist Russia.

Elena Rudina lives in the impoverished Russian countryside. Her father has been dead for years. One of her brothers has been conscripted into the Tsar’s army, the other taken as a servant in the house of the local landowner. Her mother is dying, slowly, in their tiny cabin. And there is no food. But then a train arrives in the village, a train carrying untold wealth, a cornucopia of food, and a noble family destined to visit the Tsar in Saint Petersburg — a family that includes Ekaterina, a girl of Elena’s age. When the two girls’ lives collide, an adventure is set in motion, an escapade that includes mistaken identity, a monk locked in a tower, a prince traveling incognito, and — in a starring role only Gregory Maguire could have conjured — Baba Yaga, witch of Russian folklore, in her ambulatory house perched on chicken legs.

My Take copy3

This was a really cute book, but it didn’t hold my attention in some parts and it took me a long time to get through it (it felt a bit overly long). I liked hearing about how Elena and Ekaterina met and seeing the huge differences between the lives of the privileged and the peasants, and I was very intrigued when the mistaken identity came into play. But then the story lost me for a little while as the group went on a journey to save the world, even though there were many fantastical elements that tickled my imagination–walking chicken houses, talking cats, giant nesting dolls that come to life–there is no denying that the book was full of whimsy. Even though these aspects of the book were all fun, I think I actually preferred the first half, where the story focused on the characters and their personal growth and journeys. Still, I would definitely recommend this book to fantasy lovers, especially if you enjoy Russian folklore. I give it 3.5/5 Stars.

Narration: Michael Page’s deep, slightly gravelly voice was a pleasure to listen to. He has a sort of storyteller style that fit well with this narrative. There is some mystery to the book as to who the narrator was, but Page’s voice lent some clues.


***NOTE: I received this book from the SYNC free summer audiobook program. No review was required or requested. All opinions are my own.***


4 Responses to “Bite-Sized Middle Grade Reviews – Nocturnals Books 1 & 2, Towers Falling, Egg & Spoon”

  1. Paij Slater

    Great reviews. I don’t think my 12 year old would be able to handle the 9/11 one either! I showed him some footage when they were studying it in class, and he was horrified. He still asks if that will happen again. That might be a bit too heavy for kids,

    • Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

      Yeah, when I read that part I was thinking, “There’s no way my daughter could read this.” The rest of the book is good, though, and I actually contemplated giving it to her with that one part covered. (Which I know sounds censor-ish, but she actual self-censors with stuff like that. She does NOT want to read it because she knows how much it upsets her.)

  2. ShootingStarsMag

    Towers Falling sounds really well done. 9/11 is an important moment in history, but it’s so weird to think that so many kids weren’t born or were very small when it happened. I mean, I was 11.

    I was curious about Egg & Spoon – sorry it was a bit TOO long.

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