Yolanda Ridge

Middle Grade Author

Nerdy Book Club

Totally awesome to see my list of books featuring characters with a genetic condition on the Nerdy Book Club! Check it out! Great for teachers creating reading lists for the upcoming school year. Hope everyone is enjoying a great summer. It is going too fast for me!

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Science in Middle Grade Fiction

Check out my guest post for Sci/Why about Science in Middle Grade Fiction.

When I first joined this group of Canadian science writers I thought my next children’s book would be a nonfiction title about space. That didn’t happen. What did happen was me realizing I could combine my love of science and fiction instead.

There are so many great titles that combine great stories and sound science. After this post was written, I came across a new book co-written by Bill Nye the Science Guy. “The perfect combination to engage and entertain readers, the series features real-world science along with action and a mystery that will leave kids guessing until the end, making these books ideal for STEM education.” I haven’t read book one yet, but I have downloaded the audiobook for our first summer road trip!

A belated Happy Canada Day and Happy 4th to my neighbours down south!!

9781419723032

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Speed of Life

9781492654490Speed of Life

Author: Carole Weston

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge

ISBN: 9781492654490

This is another title for the middle grade grows up category. The main character, Sofia, is fourteen-years-old – right on the line between middle grade and young adult. It was shelved in the middle grade section of my local library but has some very young adult content, mainly about sex (although none of it is graphic). On Goodreads it is recommended for ages 11-15, which seems appropriate. My 11-year-old son chose not to read it when he got to ABCs of Adolescence but I think he was already put off by the first line “WARNING: This is kind of a sad story”.

Regardless of what category this title falls into (and despite the sadness factor, or perhaps because of it), Speed of Life a wonderful read. It is impossible not to cheer for Sofia as she grieves the loss of her mother and adjusts to her dad’s new relationship. Along the way, Sofia moves from the city to the suburbs and finds romance. Some of the coincidences – Dear Kate and Sam – are a little too coincidental but the characters are memorable and authentic enough to make up of this minor quibble.

The message – even though you never forget losing those you love, life without them slowly gets easier – is beautifully conveyed. This book is both heart breaking and heart warming all at the same time. Recommended.

 

 

 

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Goodreads Giveaway!

My publisher, Kids Can Press, is doing an amazing job of getting Inside Hudson Pickle into the hands of reviewers! It is available as an ebook through NetGalley. On goodreads, they are giving away twenty-five hardcover copies of the book. Enter to win by July 1st.

Good luck and happy reviewing!!

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Real Friends

Real Friends

Author: Shannon Hale

Illustrator: LeUyen Pham

Publisher: First Second

Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge

ISBN: 1626727856

I don’t often review graphic novels but that doesn’t mean I don’t love them! I’m a big fan of letting children read everything and anything and I think graphic novels add to the diversity of choices in a truly great way. In addition, I don’t think graphic novels appeal only to those of lower reading ability of interest level. In fact, it’s possible that even for the most advance readers, picking up a graphic novel can challenge their brain in new and creative ways.

On to Real Friends! It is possible that I’m biased about this book because it’s set in the mid-80s and the main character, Shannon, was born in the same year as me! But really, kids of all ages will be able to relate to the ups and downs Shannon experiences as she tries to fit in with ‘the group’ while staying true to her own beliefs. Although this book focuses on friendships, it also deftly touches on other topics such as bullying, family dynamics, mental and behavioural health issues.

Shannon Hale’s portrayal of her own childhood is brave and unflinching. In an author’s note at the back, she explains where the story has been fictionalized, how the relationship with her sister has evolved since elementary school and why she felt it was important to share her experiences. I love her final message to readers:

“Friendship in younger years can be especially hard because our worlds are small. In high school and beyond, I found many supportive, lifelong friends. If you haven’t found your ‘group’ yet, hang in there. Your world will keep growing larger and wider. You deserve to have real friends, the kind who treat you well and get how amazing you are.”

The pictures compliment the story beautifully, with vibrant colours and emotional detail that drip from the page. As LeUyen Pham says in her acknowledgments, Shannon has penned a story that feels like it was ripped out of my own memories and insecurities as a child and her drawings bring those feelings alive in a compelling and engaging way.

A wonderful collaboration!

 

 

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It’s a real book!

My first copy of Inside Hudson Pickle! Photographed with my first (very unbiased) reader! So excited to get this title out of my computer and onto the shelves!

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Call Me Sunflower

Call-Me-SunflowerTitle: Call Me Sunflower

Author: Miriam Spitzer Franklin

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge

ISBN: 9781510711792

Sunny’s heart is in the right place – all she wants to do is to get her parents back together so she can move back to New Jersey with her mom and her sister. As she goes through each step of “Sunny Beringer’s Totally Awesome Plan for Romance”, readers will laugh and then cringe at her attempts to re-ignite their romance.

I love that this novel features a non-conventual family, Odyssey of the Mind and an animal rights subplot. And the secret Sunny uncovers when she finds a photo that makes her question her mom’s relationship with Scott – the only dad she’s ever known – provides just the right amount of tension and intrigue.

Another heart-warming middle grade novel by my my critique partner and writing friend, Miriam Spitzer Franklin. Highly recommended!

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I’ll Give You The Sun

Title: sun_375wI’ll Give You The Sun

Author: Jandy Nelson

Publisher: Dial Books

Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge

ISBN: 978-0803734968

Like We Are All Made of Molecules, I’ll Give You The Sun straddles the line between middle grade and young adult fiction. Unlike We Are All Made of Molecules, I’ll Give You The Sun falls much more solidly into the young adult category.

This book is also told from alternating points of view, twins named Noah and Jude. Interestingly, the chapters from Noah’s point of view are told when he was thirteen-years-old and Jude’s chapters come three years later when she is sixteen. This is not just a gimmick, it is part to the story. In Noah’s chapters, the twins are close and life is pretty good. In Jude’s chapters, the twins have lost their bond, their personalities have switched and it is clear that something has happened to blow their lives apart.

As the story progresses, going back and forth between Noah and Jude’s narratives, readers discover what happened and layers of secrets and deception get revealed. Although Noah (and Jude) are obviously younger in his chapters, the word choice and content may still be uncomfortable for younger middle grade readers.

I’ll Give You The Sun is a powerful, heart wrenching story about art and loss. It has a message for readers of many different ages but will resonate most with those mature enough to relate to the myriad of emotions explored.

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We Are All Made of Molecules

Title: We Are All Made of Molecules6-11-14-molecules-2

Author: Susin Neilsen

Publisher: Tundra Books

Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge

ISBN: 978-1770497795

This book is aimed at a slightly older audience than most of the books I include on this site (in some places it is listed as middle grade, in other places young adult). I’m including it because it’s good – very good – and also because the categorization of books based on age is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

It is told from the alternating view points of thirteen-year-old Stewart and fourteen-year-old Ashley, who are thrown together when Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom. Although Stewart is gifted (or perhaps because of it), he is socially immature and the chapters told from his perspective are clearly middle grade. But Ashley, although only one year older, is in some ways precocious putting both her voice and the content of her chapters into the young adult category.

The book tackles mature content matter, most notably the fact that Ashely almost gets raped, which  may be difficult for some younger readers to process. (It was difficult for me, as well, but likely in a different way and for different reasons.) Still, I would argue that preteen readers should be exposed to some of these issues in the safely and context of the book before they are experiencing it themselves.

This is a topic I will be addressing in future posts. Age of main character, target audience, and content maturity is an issue that’s affecting my own writing a lot lately. In the meantime, I highly recommend We Are All Made of Molecules for middle grade readers (and above) who are ready to tackle more challenging content and love a good book!

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Inside Hudson Pickle Description

Here’s the blurb from Books-A-Million, Amazon, Indigo, Barnes&Noble, and Indiebound:

Cut from AAA hockey last season, seventh-grader Hudson Pickle needs to make the basketball team this year. But, after having an asthma attack at the first tryout, his chances aren’t looking good. His former best friend, Trevor, is also trying out. But he won’t even speak to Hudson since Hudson had all but ignored him while concentrating on hockey. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, now his uncle Vic — who’s been staying with him and his mom since a suspicious fire at his house —has been diagnosed with a genetic respiratory illness. Could this mean Hudson has something worse than asthma? And while this DNA mystery is being unraveled, will the truth about what happened to his father finally be revealed as well?

Yolanda Ridge’s compelling coming-of-age novel for middle-graders combines humor, action and mystery — with a dose of genetic science to keep things interesting. It offers a rich reading experience with complex characters and a multilayered story. Thoughtful, authentic and likeable Hudson will inspire readers with the grit and perseverance he relies on to get through his difficulties, and the self-deprecating wit he uses to manage middle-school social dynamics, evolving friendships and a changing family structure. There are also multiple mysteries running throughout the story — involving Hudson’s father, his uncle and his own health — that are sure to keep the pages turning.

It’s already available for pre-order but won’t hit the shelves until September!

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