Dessa is our Middle Grade and Young Adult guest book reviewer!
Dessa Kuritz recently finished seventh grade. Her favorite genre is adventurous fantasy. She also enjoys science fiction and the occasional mystery. She especially enjoys books with complex characters, a twisting plot, and descriptive language that makes a world more compelling. Dessaloves reading, taekwondo, running, playing her violin, a big dog named Sammi, and of course, Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore.
This is a story for readers who wish the characters in their books were real. Matilda “Tilly” Pages has a vivid imagination and a voracious appetite for books. That’s expected - her grandparents own Pages & Co, the bookstore she lives above in modern-day London. Tilly’s mother disappeared years ago, and she has no idea who her father is. All she has left of her mother is a necklace with a bee pendant. When Tilly starts seeing characters from her favorite stories in Pages & Co, she thinks she must be imagining things. But her grandparents tell her otherwise. As Tilly begins befriending characters from her books and venturing into their stories, she learns that there is more to book wandering than fun and games. She must learn the dangers of her books and navigate the ability to become part of them. Tilly and her grandparents are relatable characters, with curious and kind personalities. Readers who enjoyed Story Thieves will enjoy The Bookwanders, as might readers looking for a lighter version of Inkheart. The Bookwanderers illuminates the power and the beauty of imagination, and offers readers a literal sense of what it means to immerse yourself in the world of books. I recommend this book to slightly younger readers from ages 9 to 14 who like fun fiction stories, mystery, and an exciting plot.
My first thought when I finished this book was “What? No!” Fortunately, it is only the first book in the Titans series. In this book, readers get introduced to the titans Astrea and Zephyr, whose society has quarantined Earth and disdains humans. But the Titans’ planet, Titus, has problems too - quarrels with Olympians, detention, and secret prisons. Both humans and titans are forced to put aside their disputes when their worlds are brought together by alien invaders. Titans captures with humor the fine line between assumptions and reality. I highly recommend this story for readers in grades 4-10 with a soft spot for mythology and excitement. --Dessa
"Families, I reckon, are overrated.” It’s not a surprise that Magpie, an orphan thief in the streets of France, thinks this. What she doesn’t reckon is that she’ll wind up being a part of one. When Magpie is told to steal a box from the Montgolfiers, she thinks it will just put some more coins in her pocket and feed her for another day or two. Instead, she fails to get the box and is forced to go back to the house, only to save their child from near-death and become the Montgolfiers’ maid. In this whirlwind story, an ordinary family goes to the king’s court, an orphan becomes an inventor, and anyone can fly. Perhaps best for younger readers but also enjoyable for middle school readers looking for a fun read with interesting characters in a historical setting. -Dessa
When the spaceship Laika is breached and the dogs Champion, Lopside, Bug, and Daisy are left alone without their humans, they must decide which is more important - their mission or their family. Or is it possible for them to save both? The four dogs you meet in this book have been handpicked and trained specifically for space travel. They are the bravest and smartest dogs on Earth (or off). They have been prepared for any and every situation that could happen. That is, as long as their humans were still on board. But when that changes, the pack must find ways to survive with minimal supplies and a collapsing ship. Voyage of the Dogs is a heartwarming story of love and survival against all odds. I recommend this tale for readers ages 9 to 13, and for science-fiction readers and dog-lovers who enjoy personification and suspense.
- Dessa, grade 7
Walter Mortinson is just becoming a teenager. But his room is already stuffed with remarkable inventions and his heart is just as crowded with conflicting emotions. Deeply touching, Quinn Sosna-Spear’s story manages to harmonize love, despair, humor, and human sympathy. You will read about Cordelia Primpet, who you’ll learn to like as she skirts death. You will read about Horace Odwald Flasterborn, the renowned, self-centered inventor. And you will read about the Mortinson family, their triumphs and their tragedies, and their concealed past. The Remarkable Inventions of Walter Mortinson will take you to places you’ve never been, but the characters will make it feel like home. I liked the way the story ended, open to possibilities but not as a cliffhanger. I recommend this book for grades 4 and up, and for anyone who likes relatable characters and is not uncomfortable with some bittersweet mixed with whimsy.
- Dessa, grade 7
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein will bring your thoughts about anything else to a complete pause. It is powerful, shocking, and brilliant. Written in the early 1800’s by a nineteen year old woman, it is a story of the limits of human ambition, and how humanity is about more than just being human. Victor Frankenstein is the scientist who creates a monster and gives it life, and then is haunted by his own creation. While his appearance is horrific, the creature begins as innocent and kind, but is not accepted by anyone and slowly begins to magnify and reflect the cruelty inflicted on him. This is what ultimately makes his actions as monstrous as his appearance. Both the scientist and his creation turn blind to almost all of the people around them, focused only on revenge on each other. The ending has a gravity to it that will weigh on your thoughts and feelings. Despite the thought-provoking moral weight of the story, Frankenstein is above all exciting, suspenseful, and frightfully compelling. 200 years and countless retellings have done nothing to dull the original tale.
- Dessa, grade 7
A gripping tale of adventure and courage filled with plot twists, deceptions, and history mysteries. The heroine of the story, Drest, lives an isolated life with her family on a Scottish headland in a Medieval setting, with castles and knights. She has grown up with the stories of her father and her brothers, a great war-band. But when they are captured, she is the only one who can save them. As she sets off on her journey, she meets new people who tell her stories inconsistent with the ones her father told her. She must decide whether her warrior father and brothers are heroes or villains, and must also decide her own way of life and fighting. A wonderful pick for any middle-grade reader who enjoys adventure, plot twists, heroines, and intricate legends.
-Dessa, grade 7
Colored lies, soldier princesses, and kidnapping kings. This book was thrilling and heart-wrenching. A beautiful cover invites you. Complex characters keep you in. I found myself picturing the flow of events as scenes in my head. A great pick for tweens.
“We go now to that dark and terrible origin place where all spells meet their end. (Oh, and make sure to take your gummy vitamins every morning.)” The first in a series, The Serpent’s Secret is a fantastical adventure based on bits and pieces of multiple Hindu tales. Told from the perspective of a 12 year old Indian girl, this story is about her as she realizes what her true identity is, and the journey she takes to prove herself and unite her family once more. It is equal parts humor, danger, and inter-dimensional confusion. Think Rick Riordan with a Hindu twist. I would recommend this book to any fourth-eighth grade who enjoys plot twists, fun, and fantasy.
-Dessa, grade 7
This book was an intricately woven tale of mystery, belief, and long lost stories. A sixteen year old girl grows up in a town where people’s lives are shown on their skin as tattoos. Her faith and perspective are upended as she learns that large parts of her life are based on lies. A stunning story of “blanks” (the un-tattooed), stolen identities, and government tricks falls into place throughout the book. The plot and characters will keep you thinking and feeling. A great pick for young adults who enjoy realistic fiction.
---Dessa, Grade 7
From my seventh grade perspective, this book was engaging, interesting, and fun to read. It explores multiple aspects of Ancient Rome, from Cleopatra’s life all the way to what “fast food” at that time would be like. It is a good way to learn, if you are okay with losing a few details to dry humor. To summarize, I found it to be an engaging book even though some historical detail and subtlety is traded for a laugh and an easier read.
“Her rage holds a delight, a hunger....” Alluring, dangerous, and exciting. Told from the perspective of two main character, each with fierce passions. Each grows into who they are meant to be over the course of the story. The perspective alternates between two girls in their early twenties. As the plot develops, threads connecting these two young women of different times start to make themselves apparent. A wonderful selection for young adult readers who enjoy fantasy, plot twists, and powerful feminine characters.
Dessa, Grade 7
From my seventh grade perspective, I found this to be fun to read and uniquely engaging. It involves plot twists, confusion, trials of family bonds, and brilliant women inventors. I found myself trying to figure out the plot as I was reading, and felt pulled into the story with vigor and enthusiasm. This book is the first in a series. A fun and engaging mystery.
Cloudships, sky pirates, resourceful orphans (some with gills), and daring rescues. A fun, easy, and whimsical read. It also has an attractive cover and beautiful black-and-white illustrations throughout. A good choice for anyone with a taste for fantastical adventure.
From my seventh grade perspective, this book was engaging and revealing. The story alternates between the perspectives of a young US Marine and a teenage Okinawan civilian. This gives the reader a window into both of their lives and two very different views of World War II. It is a book that makes you think and feel. A good piece of historical fiction suitable for young adults.
“The Familiar popped like a bubble above our heads. But we held tight to our knapsacks and kept on walking.” Heart-wrenchingly realistic, this piece of writing will make you think and feel about what we value and how we look at one another. Harbor Me is the gripping story of six sixth-graders, all deemed “special,” because of their academic challenges. All of them have faced hardships in their lives. But when they are forced into a room together, their stories unite them, and help them find strength in each other and themselves. A wonderful pick for any middle grade reader who enjoys realistic fiction, heart-warming experiences, and intriguing thoughts.
- Dessa, grade 7