Reviews and Recommendations for
Middle Grade Readers
In this edition of our Holiday  Book Gathering, we focus on books that would make great gifts for middle grade readers. We've included some of our favorite novels, graphic novels, and non-fiction books. And of course, we have so many more favorites! Stop by and we will help you find the perfect gifts for all the readers on your list.
Staff Reviews
Saving Winslow
By Sharon Creech

Sharon Creech has, once again, hit it out of the park. Saving Winslow is a sweet story about a boy, Louie, who is determined to save Winslow, a miniature donkey who is failing to thrive. With Louie's love and Winslow's perseverance, wonderful things happen. I finished this and wished hard for a miniature donkey. Who knows, Christmas is coming!   — Julie (RBB Staff)
Voyage of the Dogs
By Greg van Eekhout

I so love this book! A group of highly trained dogs, bred for intelligence, are stranded on a ship in space when their human companions flee. Van Eekhout does a credible job staying within current scientific knowledge, and creating new science when he needs to. But it's the dogs I love best, and Lopside the most, with his tenacity, his unfailing loyalty, and his determination for their mission to succeed--so he can prove to himself he is a good dog, and a true Barkonaut . — Joan (RBB Staff)
Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster
By Jonathan Auxier

In this beautiful book, Jonathan Auxier tells the story of a chimney sweep named Nan. Her work is dangerous, her life brutal and lonely, and her future deeply uncertain. The only things that sustain her are a half-remembered past with a man who cared for her and the mysterious, always-warm lump of coal he left when he disappeared. When Nan is caught in a deadly chimney fire, it should be the end—but instead she's rescued by a magical creature made of soot. Nan and her new friend run away from their old life to create a new one, but as time passes they aren't content being the only ones who have escaped when so many are still suffering. Gorgeous writing, captivating characters, and themes of real-life discrimination and injustice make this book an incredible read—the kind you'll need to hug to your chest after you're done reading it.   — Lily (RBB Staff)
Dactyl Hill Squad
By Daniel José Older

Civil War history, dinosaurs (yes, dinosaurs!), and a young brave heroine, Magdalys, come together in this fast-paced historical fantasy. I learned much about seldom-taught events happening in New York City during the Civil War. I also found myself in awe of and rooting for Magdalys and her friends. This is the first book in what I know will continue to be a fun, fascinating, and captivating series . — Holly (RBB Staff)
The Adventurers Guild
by Zack Loran Clark, Nick Eliopulos

In the walled city of Freestone, kids are called to Guilds they'll work in for life. Best friends Zed and Brock know exactly which guilds they want to join—Mages and Merchants, respectively—but when Zed is unexpectedly drafted to the usually-deadly Adventurers Guild, Brock volunteers to follow. Adventurers are tasked with fighting the nightmarish Dangers that surround the city—their survival rate is low. As Zed and Brock start to find their footing in the Guild, they learn about a conspiracy that threatens all of Freestone. Full of adventure and well-written characters, this is the perfect book for kids who will grow up to play lots of D&D.    — Lily (RBB Staff)
Mac Undercover (Mac B., Kid Spy #1)
By Mac Barnett, Mike Lowery (Illus.)

A hilarious addition to the world of first chapter books, Mac Undercover is the story of author Mac Barnett's totally real past as a spy for the Queen of England. When the Crown Jewels are stolen, it's up to Mac to get them back, armed only with his one pair of perfect blue jeans, a mostly-useless corgi, a GameBoy, and a pair of night-vision sunglasses. Very funny (and secretly about a little more than spy hijinks), this is the perfect book for the budding mystery fan. — Lily (RBB Staff)
Kitten Construction Company (Graphic Novel)
By John Patrick Green

What do you do if you dream of being an architect but no one will take you seriously because you're too adorable....and a kitten? Marmalade has to find out, choosing to purrsue her dreams anyway, with the help of a few determined cat-workers. Together they show us that anything is pawssible! A fantastic metaphor both for what it's like to be a kid and what it's like to be a minority in a workplace, this graphic novel is both surprisingly timely and a meowgnificently funny read. My cat gives this a 10/10. — Lily (RBB Staff)
The Cardboard Kingdom   (Graphic Novel)
By Chad Sell

There are so many graphic novels out there that help kids muddle through life, and this is on the top of that list. We are introduced to a group of neighborhood kids who use cardboard to make all sorts of costumes. Their imaginations run wild and nothing is off limits. It's a collection of stories with each story being about one of the kids in the neighborhood. Each one has their own problems, and wishes, and just general humanness. A great use of imagination, and Sell's illustrations are perfect. Every kid is going to want to live in this neighborhood . — Julie (RBB Staff)
National Parks of the U.S.A. (Nonfiction)
By Kate Siber, Chris Turnham  (Illus.)

Open this information-packed and wonderfully illustrated book and treat yourself to a crash course on America's national parks. Travel from Acadia on the Maine coast to the awesome volcanoes of Hawaii and learn all about the land, the wildlife, and the history of our national treasures. Take the A-Z wildlife challenge at the back of the book. Enjoy the great pictures and tidbits of trivia on every page.  Your budding naturalist needs this book for his or her library! — Barb (RBB Staff)
We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices (Nonfiction)
By Wade Hudson (Ed.), Cheryl Willis Hudson (Ed.)

Written to children who are afraid because the world is the way it is today, by adults who have lived through terrible things, but who understand that it is our job to give our children hope and love. And so, with wise words and stunning images they do just that, and by so doing, they inspire--and enable--all of us to do the same. — Joan (RBB Staff)
More Books We Love
An Anthology of Intriguing Animals
The Magnus Chase Coloring Book
By Keith Robinson (Illus.)
The Atlas Obscura Explorer's Guide for the World's Most Adventerous Kid
By  Dylan Thuras, Rosemary Mosco, Joy Ang (Illus.)
The Parker Inheritance
By Varian Johnson
Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths
By Graham Annable
The Unicorn Resuce Society (Series)
By Adam Gidwitz
Other Happenings
Be an angel this holiday season and give  new book purchased from Red Balloon  to a St. Paul student in need. Red Balloon proudly matches books donated and pays forward all gift wrapping tips during this annual book drive. Keep the holidays merry for all: donate a book!