The Orphan Band of Springdale by Anne Nesbet

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The Orphan Band of Springdale is a middle grade novel written by Anne Nesbet. I always read the middle grade novels I receive with my oldest daughter, so I was excited about the opportunity to share another book with her.

Gusta Neubronner arrives in Sprindale, Maine to stay with her mother’s family. She wants nothing more than to fit in with her new classmates, but she immediately stands out when she fails an eye exam on the first day of school. Gusta has always known that she needs glasses, but she always used coping mechanisms like memorization to “pass” the test. Glasses are a luxury that she doesn’t think her family can afford.

Gusta also stands out because of her “foreign” name. It’s 1941, and her school is engaged in activities that highlight what it means to be a Real American, and what they as children can do to be patriots. Gusta wants to do her part, but she is also struck by the injustice that she sees around her. Her father is actually on the run from the authorities for his role in labor organization. Read more

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The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

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The Tuscan Child was written by Rhys Bowen. This is her second standalone novel, but she is a prolific author of several series of historical mystery novels. I am a big fan of her Royal Spyness and Molly Murphy books, so I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book.

This novel functions with a dual timeline- half of the story takes place during WWII: Hugo Langley, an English pilot, crashes in the hills of Tuscany. Thirty years later, his daughter Joanna finds a letter among Hugo’s personal papers following his sudden death. She reads something so compelling that she returns to Tuscany to discover the truth about what happened all those years ago. Read more

The Dollmaker of Krakow

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The Dollmaker of Krakow is a middle grade novel written by R.M. Romero. My three girls are in the middle grade range, and so I always end up reading the children’s fiction I receive with them because their feedback is invaluable.

Karolina lived quite happily in the Land of the Dolls until the rats invaded. Her peaceful existence was shattered as the rats began a reign of terror. When things are looking their bleakest, Karolina awakens in a toy shop in the city of Krakow. She meets Mr. Brzezick, the Dollmaker who brought her to life. At first, the Dollmaker is shocked that Karolina can speak to him, but he quickly accepts the magic for what it is. Read more

These Dark Wings by John Owen Theobald

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

These Dark Wings is a middle grade novel by John Owen Theobald. This WWII story follows young Anna Cooper, who moves into the Tower of London after her mother is killed during the Blitz. Her uncle is the Ravenmaster at the Tower, and helping him care for the ravens gives Anna a purpose as she adjusts to her new life.   As the German bombardment continues relentlessly, Anna becomes increasingly preoccupied with the myth that the fate of England is tied to the ravens remaining at the Tower; if the ravens leave, then England will fall. Read more

The Queen’s Accomplice by Susan Elia MacNeal

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

I have read several of the books in Susan Elia MacNeal’s Maggie Hope series, and I was looking forward to reading The Queen’s Accomplice, which is the newest entry.

For those of you unfamiliar with Maggie Hope, she is a young woman living in England during WWII. She’s very clever, and this leads to government positions working with powerful people, like Winston Churchill.

As the book begins, Maggie has returned from her American sojourn, and is working with British Intelligence translating the encoded messages the office receives from agents working in Occupied France. Some of her superiors are less than thrilled about female agents, and they ignore Maggie’s concerns that one of the female agents may have been captured.

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Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

61uonxdctxlWolf Hollow is a middle grade novel written by Lauren Wolk. This book had been on my radar since before it was published, and I finally got around to reading it a couple of weeks ago.

Annabelle lives with her family in a small Pennsylvania town called Wolf Hollow. The year is 1943, and there is a war going on, but life is relatively peaceful in their bucolic corner. That changes when Betty Glengarry is sent to Wolf Hollow to live with her grandparents. It is known that Betty was sent away because of her behavior, and instead of changing her ways in her new surroundings, she bullies Annabelle and her brothers.

Betty proves that she is conniving and manipulative when she begins to blame Toby for acts that she has committed. Toby was not born in Wolf Hollow, but he has been living in the countryside around the town for several years. He lives like a hermit, and keeps his interactions with other people to a minimum. He has always been a benign presence, but Betty’s claims call his trustworthiness into question. When Betty disappears, Toby is implicated. Read more

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

512busy-soelWhen I found Girl in the Blue Coat at my town library, I was pleased because I could take it home right away without having to make a request through the library network.

Girl in the Blue Coat was written by Monica Hesse. This is a World War II novel, which seems to be a popular setting lately. Hanneke lives in occupied Holland. She is done with school, and has a rather bland and unassuming job. This is, however, only a front- she is really helping transport black market goods around Amsterdam and delivering them to whoever is willing to pay her boss’s prices. You would be surprised what people would pay for chocolate or other coveted goods.

Hanneke tries to stay out of her customers’ business. It’s better that they know as little about each other as possible, right? That changes when one of her customers asks for help. She doesn’t need anything material; the customer asks Hanneke to help find the Jewish girl who was hiding in her house, but has disappeared. Read more

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox

41ijyi-d4ulI had been eagerly awaiting The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, and was very excited when I finally had time to read it. This middle grade novel was written by Janet Fox.

Katherine Bateson and her siblings are sent to north to Scotland and Rookskill Castle to escape the London Blitz. They are joined by several other children, and they are all the guests of Lady Eleanor, who had graciously turned her manor house into a school for the children. Read more

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

51lktqmvkxlI found Wolf by Wolf on the new release shelf in the young adult section of my town library It had not been on my radar, and I am not familiar with author Ryan Graudin, but as soon as I read the description, I knew that it was a book that I wanted to read.

Wolf by Wolf takes place in an alternate 1956. In this world, the Axis powers won World War II and now controls all of the land from Berlin to Tokyo. Every year, they hold a grueling motorcycle race between those two dazzling capital cities. Last year, a girl named Adele Wolfe entered the race by posing as her twin brother Felix. She won the race, revealed herself as a girl, and then danced with Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s Ball. 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.