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Middle Grade Fiction

  • Test of a Champion

    by Ann Deiterich

    Rating: 6.25

    Indefatigable, a filly, struggles for respect as a racehorse in a competition of colts in Deiterich's well-plotted horse saga. The novel meanders through Indy’s emotional journey as she leaves home behind, only to make her first true friends and race through the three Triple Crown events. While the characters have little depth, their likeable demeanors and charming slang will win over young horse lovers.

  • Dotty and the Calendar House Key

    by Emma Warner-Reed

    Rating: 5.50

    Recently orphaned, nine-year-old Dotty Parsons moves to the Calendar House and is caught up in chimney sweep magic and the quest for a lost key. This straightforward fantasy presents a mismatch between the intended audience's reading level and the book's often challenging language. The plot moves along well, and characters are believable, but Dotty is unconvincing as a child whose parents have just died. Still, charming details of the house and magic should engage younger readers.

  • Project Chronos: The War Begins

    by steve antonette

    Rating: 5.50

    Antonette's novel transcends the usual biff-bang superhero epic by alluding to contemporary issues. As tensions between Supers and Normals proliferate and shady government and corporate entities pursue their own objectives in 2025, the heavily populated canvas offers gadgets and fast-paced action along with some interesting character riffs. Although the plot descends into an incoherent melee, the work should please its youthful audience by providing traditional genre tropes along with a gleefully age-appropriate jargon.

  • The Goblin Squad

    by Jeremy Hayes

    Rating: 5.00

    Misfit trainee knights must prove themselves against vegetable-thieving goblins and other magical creatures in this lighthearted fantasy for younger readers. Those unready for the darker elements of Harry Potter may find the right amount of adventure and suspense here. Characters can be a bit stereotypical and the plot occasionally relies on fairly dim adults. There are minor grammatical errors but they don’t hamper the story. Readers will appreciate comic touches and easily follow the action: chases, fights and the big quest are well-paced and described in cinematic detail.

  • Making It Home

    by Suzanne Roche

    Rating: 5.00

    This middle-grade historical fantasy novel has admirable aspirations -- to give young people the experience of life as an initial immigrant to the United States via Ellis Island -- but beyond its good intentions, the novel notably lacks the sense of magic and alternative reality that the best children's fantasy achieves. Instead, it plods along predictably with characters that young readers will find very familiar and a plot that is less than original.

  • Stumbling On A Tale

    by Suzanne Roche

    Rating: 5.00

    In Roche's fast paced historical time travel novel, a trio of step-siblings find themselves in medieval England. Along their journey to find their way back home, they stumble upon interesting characters -- e.g. Merlin -- many of whom are sadly underdeveloped. And while the story does come together well in the end, and the author provides fascinating factual information about medieval times, the novel fails to captivate or stand out from similar books in the genre.