Thursday, September 26, 2013

Middle Grade Fiction Reviews - Jersey style

I've read too much and written too little. Here's a quick rundown on two of my recent reads, The Last Present by Wendy Mass and The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand.  Both authors hail from the Garden State, though I've no doubt that Ms. Legrand would point out that she's a Texas transplant.  Still, we're glad to have her.



  • Mass, Wendy. 2013. The Last Present.  New York: Scholastic.  


The Last Present is the final book in the Willow Falls (or "birthday") series, realistic fiction with just the right amount of magic, courtesy of Angelina, the mysterious old woman with the duck-shaped birthmark. Angelina is seemingly the architect of all that occurs in Willow Falls, the town where nothing happens by coincidence and everything happens for a reason.  Readers of the series will delight in revisiting their favorite characters - Leo, Amanda, Tara, Rory, David and all rest, as their stories intertwine and the story of Angelina is finally revealed.  The fact that I never read the second book, Finally, was a bit of a hindrance to me. With many plot lines, twists and turns, this is a series best read in order. I'm sad to see it come to an end.  It's been great fun!

My reviews of other books in the series:

11 Birthdays 
13 Gifts

A note to parents and teachers - if you bought your copy of The Last Present at a Scholastic Book Fair, consider yourself lucky!  The hardcover library edition was not released until yesterday (my copy was an Advance Reader Copy).  I was surprised to see it available in paperback at the schools I visited last week.  Next year when I visit schools for National Library Card Sign-Up Month, I'm going to bring money for Book Fair shopping!

Fans of Wendy Mass will be thrilled to know that a first draft of The Candymakers movie script has been completed, and A Mango Shaped Space may see its day in Hollywood, too.  Read Wendy Mass' blog post for more details!


As the peculiar and quirky Angelina orchestrates events in Willow Falls, so too does Miss Cavendish wield influence over the perfect town of Belleville in The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, though their motives could not be more divergent.


Legrand, Claire. 2012. The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls. New York: Simon and Schuster. 

Victoria Wright has a perfect life in the perfect town of Belleville. A prissy young thing, she is smart, pretty, and lives in a perfectly appointed home with practically perfect parents.  In fact, the only thing that isn't perfect in Victoria's life is her "friend," Lawrence, a rather disheveled and odd young boy, but Victoria's friend, nevertheless - perhaps because no one else can suffer her compulsive need for perfection.  The fact that her town contains an orphanage of sorts, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, has never given her pause.  In fact, no one in Belleville gives it much thought. Run by the charming, beautiful and well-mannered, Miss Cavendish, it somehow blends into the very fabric of the town. However, when Lawrence goes on an unexplained and lengthy trip to visit "a grandmother," Victoria begins to suspect that something in town may be amiss. The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls may not be what it seems.  

Dark and decidedly creepy, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls will thrill middle grade readers looking for a good scare.  You will be hard pressed to find a more sinister villain than the beautiful Miss Cavendish.   Be careful of wishing for perfection.  It does not come without a price!


Note:
I will have the pleasure of meeting Claire Legrand in person next month. I'm so looking forward to it!

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