Children of Jubilee by Margaret Peterson Haddix

children of jubileeSimon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018.

Refuge City is supposed to be just that—a refuge. But suddenly, the safe haven where Kiandra and Enu have lived since they were tiny has been taken over by Enforcers, and Rosa, Edwy, Zeba, Bobo, Cana, Enu, and Kiandra find themselves running for their lives. Not only that, but everyone expects twelve-year-old Kiandra to know what to do. Kiandra’s a tech genius and great at finding answers, but she’s definitely not used to having anyone depending on her. To Kiandra’s dismay, the others expect her to lead them even when the tech is taken out of the equation, and the stakes could not be higher.

Children of Jubilee is a cracking ending to the Children of Exile series which started with Children of Exile and moved on to Children of Refuge. Click the links to read my reviews of the previous books. Every book builds on the story through the eyes of a different main character, and yet the impeccable tension, pacing, and consideration of the human condition make a strong thread through all of the books.

I enjoyed—as will most middle grade readers, I think—the opportunity to learn about the worlds and cultures within the books and ponder the ethical questions that arose. Each main character, first Rosi, then Edwy, and finally Kiandra, is a hero to be revered who also gained my sympathy. The action kept me reading and the ethics kept me pondering. The questions of ethics are universal ones, and ones particularly suited to this series’ audience, I think. Each book could stand alone, but I think they’re especially satisfying read as a series.

I recommend this series as an addition to libraries, classrooms, and as gifts for middle grade readers who like a gripping, high-stakes, sci-fi tale.

I received a copy of Children of Jubilee in exchange for an honest review.

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Dragonwatch: Wrath of the Dragon King by Brandon Mull

Dragonwatch, book 2: Wrath of the Dragon KingShadow Mountain Publishing, 2018.

Seth is frozen–rendered completely immobile by the fear of the dragon before him. Even his knowledge that this dragon is a friend cannot outweigh the fear that paralyses him. Seth and his sister Kendra may be co-caretakers at Wyrmroost, but only Kendra is immune to dragon fear, and Seth is only protected when he holds her hand. There are a few logistical problems with that, plus it’s embarrassing!

Now Celebrant, the Dragon King, has invited Seth and Kendra to a feast and it’s an invitation they can’t refuse. But Kendra’s immunity to dragon fear once helped her get the better of Celebrant, and that made him her enemy. Will the dragons honor their rules of hospitality at the feast or will Seth and Kendra be risking their lives just to attend?

I came to this preview of the second book of the Dragonwatch series without having read the first book nor any other than the first book in the Fablehaven series. Nevertheless, the world-building in Wrath of the Dragon King is strong, so although there were many characters to be introduced to in a short time, I felt as if I understood the world itself and the challenges the main characters faced right away.

This story will be loved by readers who love magical creatures, lore, and of course, mythical battles. There is magic here, but much of the interest in the tale seems to focus on strategy, cleverness, ancient rules, and societies. Seth and Kendra have a real challenge in front of them. I can’t wait to find out how it ends!

I received a preview of Wrath of the Dragon King from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret by Trudi Trueit

Nebula SecretUnder the Stars, National Geographic Partners, 2018

Cruz Coronado has made it! He’s about to leave Hawaii to go to the Explorer’s Academy in Washington, D.C. It’s been his dream to attend the academy all his life–his mother was a graduate, after all. But even before Cruz leaves Hawaii, it’s clear that someone is trying to make sure he doesn’t go.

The academy is everything Cruz dreamed of–amazing technology, including a simulator where the recruits practice missions, clever friends from all over the world, and his aunt, the closest thing Cruz has had to a mother since his own mother died when he was five. But someone’s still trying to knock Cruz out of the academy. Will Cruz and his new friends be able to stop them before it’s too late?

The Nebula Secret is a great start to a new seven book series and a new fiction venture for National Geographic Kids. (The second book is due out in spring 2019.) The story is fast-paced and engaging. The characters are appealing but not without flaws. It’s got all the elements needed in a series kids will want to follow. They’ll also love the end notes that feature real science and real scientists doing cutting-edge work today. This series is a must for your middle grade list!

I received a copy of The Nebula Secret from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

The Secret Code Menace by Pamela Cosman

The secret code menaceRansom Publishing, UK, 2016

During summer vacation Sara, Daniel, and Jared came up with an awesome secret code. They think it’s the perfect thing to keep parental units, teachers, and annoying little sisters in the dark. The first real test of the new code comes on the first day of school when a harmless message gets changed in transit and puts Sara in some serious hot water at school. Despite that, they don’t give up on the code. Instead the brother, sister, and cousin team get busy finding ways to protect their code from errors that others could introduce. And it’s a good thing they do, because when the local bank is robbed in the middle of Sara and Daniel’s field trip, their code may be the only thing that can get them out of a difficult and dangerous situation.

Pamela Cosman has written a ripping adventure starring a group of ordinary middle school kids. The characters are appealing and real. The stakes are high. And the kids save the day. It’s an engaging story with STEM concepts worked in. The secret code involved is a binary code and useful for learning how computers pass information. The Secret Code Menace takes readers along for a fun ride while clearly showing how engineers solve problems with corrupted information in DVDs, cell phones, and other types of communication so that users may not even notice a problem.

A section at the end of the book gives even more information for kids who are interested in learning about error correction coding in more detail. It also offers solutions to the unsolved puzzles in the story.

Pamela Cosman is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at University of California, San Diego. In The Secret Code Menace she uses her considerable knowledge and teaching skills to make engineering concepts clear and fun for upper elementary and middle school readers.

This is the start of a great new series for kids. It will appeal to readers who simply want a good story and also to kids who are fascinated by secret codes and STEM concepts. This is a must-add for classrooms, school libraries, and fun summer reading.