The Secrets of the Pied Piper: The Peddler’s Road by Matthew Cody


I received a copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher.

The story of the Pied Piper is a famous folktale. We know that the Piped Piper lured the children of Hamelin from their beds, and led them away. We know that they were never seen again, but we don’t know what happened to the children. In a new middle grade novel, author Matthew Cody explores this premise in The Secrets of the Pied Piper: The Peddler’s Road.

Max (short for Maxine) and Carter are two children living in the modern era. They are staying in Hamelin with their father, a folklorist. By the time they realize they are caught up in the Pied Piper story, they are whisked away and taken to the Summer Isle.

The original children of Hamelin have made their home on the Summer Isle. They are aware that they have been there for a long time, but they have no idea that they have been living there for 800 years. Their bodies have not aged, but they have lost their memories of their homes and their families.

They tell Carter and Max that life on the Summer Isle is not always idyllic, and that terrifying creatures come out at night, like the giant rats. They also tell Max and Carter that they believe that their arrival signals fulfillment of an ancient prophecy. The two modern children must set aside everything they have been told about magic not existing, and join their new friends on a quest to the other side of the Summer Isle. The journey is long and dangerous, but if Max and Carter ever want to get home, they need to search for the secrets of the island and its most famous resident.

Over the course of the story, Max and Carter must both search evaluate what they want from life. Max is brash and abrasive, and needs to learn to work with the other children. Carter wears a brace on his leg, and has always been more of an observer. But on the Summer Isle, the other children value his opinion. He has an opportunity to take on more of a leadership role, but he needs to believe in himself.

In addition to a village of ageless children, Cody has filled the island with all sorts of magical creatures. From the mischief of rats (the proper name for a group of rats) enmeshed in a power struggle, to the house on chicken legs owned by a witch, the island is teeming with magic. The children of New Hamelin (as they have named their village) have held their own for hundreds of years, but can they withstand this latest onslaught?

I would recommend The Peddler’s Road. This is the first installment of a planned trilogy called The Secrets of the Pied Piper. I knew this, but I was still a little surprised when the story ended so suddenly. Talk about a cliffhanger! This is a fun and original adventure story. There is plenty of excitement and some scariness, which makes this ideal middle grade fare. I am certainly excited for the next book in the series, and I suppose I will have to content myself with reading Matthew Cody’s other books in the meantime.

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly



I received this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I have been a big fan of Jennifer Donnelly for years. A Northern Light is one of the best books that I have ever read. When I received the opportunity to read These Shallow Graves, I was very excited about the opportunity to return to the same historical era as A Northern Light.

Jo Montfort comes from a wealthy New York family. She is expected to maintain proper decorum at all times, marry a young man from an equally wealthy family, and devote her life to raising children and managing a household full of servants. Read more

I Really Like Slop! by Mo Willems

My three girls are big fans of Elephant and Piggie books. We’ve been reading them since my oldest was 4, and she’s a third grader now. Over the years, we have amassed quite a collection of Elephant and Piggie books, and we are always excited when a new one comes out.

I Really Like Slop! begins with Piggie arriving with a big bowl of slop. She is very excited about her slop. She really wants Gerald to try the slop, but Gerald is hesitant because of the slop’s appearance and smell. Will Gerald try the slop? Will he like it? Read more

Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante by Susan Elia MacNeal


I am a big fan of Susan Elia MacNeal’s Maggie Hope series, although I admit that I am an inpatient fan. After reading the first book, I received an opportunity to read the fifth book before its release date. I was so excited that I dove into Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante, without having read the middle entries in the series! I may have spoiled myself for books 2-4, but I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and would do it again.

The story takes place at the end of 1941. Maggie Hope arrives in the United States as part of Winston Churchill’s entourage. President Roosevelt has just declared war on Germany and Japan, and Churchill has traveled to America as a gesture of solidarity. Maggie quickly demonstrates that she is an invaluable resource when she helps Eleanor Roosevelt with a delicate situation. A young woman who recently worked as Mrs. Roosevelt’s secretary has been found dead, and all signs seem to point to someone trying to implicate the First Lady in a shocking scandal.

There are several other storylines, including a young man about to be executed, and a trio of captured Nazis languishing away in an English manor house. These storylines are all related, and I loved the way that MacNeal wove everything together.

The best thing about this book, and probably about the series as a whole, is MacNeal’s talent for characterization; even the minor characters have well-developed personalities. I also loved the history behind this fictional story; I was unaware that Winston Churchill really did visit the United States, and I found myself looking up details of the visit while I was in the middle of reading. MacNeal does a wonderful job of inserting historical details into the dialogue and the descriptive paragraphs. While much of this book focused on tense moments, there was also some levity. Fala, the Roosevelts’ celebrated Scottie dog stole the show in all of his scenes.

I would absolutely recommend Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante. I would recommend reading the other books in the Maggie Hope series first; it’s probably not mandatory, but it certainly does help. I do plan to go back and read the books that I’ve missed as soon as I get a chance. There were several hints at the future of the series, and I am looking forward to seeing what is next for Maggie Hope.

The Girl with the Glass Bird by Esme Kerr



I found The Girl with the Glass Bird through my library network’s search engine. I’ve been on a boarding school kick lately, and so I have several books checked out from the library and in my reading queue from that genre.

The Girl with the Glass Bird is a middle grade novel by Esme Kerr. As the story begins, a young English girl named Edie has been sent to live with her cruel cousins after her beloved grandmother is sent to a nursing home. She hates her cousins, and they torment her mercilessly. When a distant relative offer to pay her tuition at a prestigious boarding school, she is grateful for the opportunity. Read more

Snoopy: Contact by Charles Schulz


I grew up with Snoopy. We all grew up with Snoopy, didn’t we? I have fond memories of reading new Peanuts strip in the Sunday edition of the Los Angeles Times with my father. So, I was very excited when I received the opportunity to review Snoopy: Contact!, a collection of Snoopy-centric strips. I was especially excited to share the book with my eight-year-old daughter, who is a Peanuts fanatic.

Snoopy: Contact! contains over 150 pages of Peanuts strips featuring Charlie Brown’s beloved beagle, Snoopy. One of the most recurring themes in these strips is that of the “flying ace”. Snoopy pretends that his doghouse is a Sopwith Camel, and he engages in dogfights with his archnemesis, the Red Baron. When he is not taking to the skies in search of his foe, Snoopy can be found in tiny cafes where he partakes in root beer. Read more

The Adventuress by Tasha Alexander



Behind the Shattered Glass was my first experience with Tasha Alexander’s delightful Lady Emily mystery series, so when I received the opportunity to read The Adventuress, Lady Emily’s newest adventure, I was very excited because I love stories set in the Victorian era, and I love mysteries.

In The Adventuress, Lady Emily and her husband Colin find themselves on the Cote D’Azure as the guests of the Wells family, whose daughter is engaged to Emily’s childhood friend the Duke of Bainbridge. As the story begins, the celebration is disrupted by the discovery of a body; a member of the party has been found dead. His death is ruled a suicide, but Lady Emily is suspicious of this; why would a chap who seemed generally happy with life choose to kill himself in his friend the duke’s room? Read more

Nooks & Crannies by Jessica Lawson



I first found Nooks & Crannies by Jessica Lawson on Goodreads, and was immediately intrigued. I made a request through the library network, and my book arrived quickly. I have read so many wonderful middle grade novels this year, and I’m pleased to report that Nooks & Crannies was another treasure that I am happy to have discovered.

This is an Edwardian tale, as well as a mystery. As the story begins, six lucky children around London have all received letters inviting them to meet the Countess of Windermere. Our plucky protagonist is Tabitha Crum, who is the shabbiest of the six children. Tabitha has a little mouse called Pemberley, and she is a fan of Percival Pensive mystery stories. Read more

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell



It’s probably not mandatory to read Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl before reading Carry On, but it certainly helps. Fangirl’s protagonist Cath struggled with going away to college, being separated from her twin for the first time, and the role that Simon Snow fanfiction played in her new reality. Fangirl featured excerpts of both “canon” Simon Snow, and Cath’s fanfic spin on the global literary phenomenon.

Carry On is a full length Simon Snow novel. Simon Snow is similar to another series with a famous boy wizard, but that is where the similarities end. Simon Snow’s world is wholly original. Carry On takes place during Simon’s eighth year at Watford, a school for magical children. Simon plays a unique role in the World of Mages; he is seen as the Chosen One, who will deliver them from evil. Namely, the Insidious Humdrum, who takes on the form of Simon as an eleven-year-old boy. Read more