The Review Squad is a group of young avid readers who read and review books before publication to hunt out the very best new kids books.
Have a kid (9+) or teenager that loves to read? Sign them up for the Review Squad! They can pick a book from our selection of Advanced Reading Copies, take it home (for free!), and read it at their leisure, then write a short review about the book. Get all the details and sign up in store.
Scouts by Shannon Greenland
Annie, Beans, Rocky, and Fynn are the Scouts--best friends who do everything together. It's 1985, and the summer before seventh grade is just beginning. The Scouts decide to secretly climb Old Man Basinger's silo to watch a meteor shower, and when one meteor seems to crash nearby, the Scouts know they have to set out on their next adventure and find it.
But their fun overnight jaunt through the woods soon takes a turn for the worst when they discover a series of disturbing clues about the meteor--and suddenly find themselves on the run from the wild, violent Mason clan. Bonds are tested when new kids join their adventure and the group's true feelings are revealed. Will the Scouts survive this journey together--or will their unbreakable friendships prove vulnerable after all?
"Scouts is about 1 girl and 3 boys that call themselves the Scouts. The book is from Annie's (the only girl) point of view. I like the book because its an adventure book and a funny book. Kids that are ages 9+ will LOVE this book. Hope you enjoy it!"
The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane by Julia Nobel
With a dad who disappeared years ago and a mother who's a bit too busy to parent, Emmy is shipped off to Wellsworth, a prestigious boarding school in England, where she's sure she won't fit in.
But then she finds a box of mysterious medallions in the attic of her home—medallions that belonged to her father. Her father who may have gone to Wellsworth.
When she arrives at school, she finds the strange symbols from the medallions etched into walls and books, which leads Emmy and her new friends, Jack and Lola, to Wellsworth's secret society: The Order of Black Hollow Lane. Emmy can't help but think that the society had something to do with her dad's disappearance, and that there may be more than just dark secrets in the halls of Wellsworth...
"The book, The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane, is truly an amazing book. I loved this book so much! It shows that you can make the best out of everything, even if you don't like it in the start. This book follows Emmy and her journey of being at boarding school in England. She meet friends (and foes), goes on adventures, breaks some rules along the way, and learns the truth about her past. Overall, I rate this book 5 stars! From the beginning to the end, this book keeps you intrigued (it's that good!) I think that if you read it, you will love it!"
Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech
Louie doesn't have the best luck when it comes to nurturing small creatures. So when his father brings home a sickly newborn mini donkey, he's determined to save him. He names him Winslow. Taking care of him helps Louie feel closer to his brother, Gus, who is far, far away in the army.
Everyone worries that Winslow won't survive, especially Louie’s quirky new friend, Nora, who has experienced loss of her own. But as Louie's bond with Winslow grows, surprising and life-altering events prove that this fragile donkey is stronger than anyone could have imagined.
"Saving Winslow is an uplifting modern classic in the making about a young boy who befriends a very weak and sick newborn donkey and nurses him back to health. Though Louie doesn't have the best luck when it comes to nurturing small creatures. Saving Winslow is perfect for fans of Charlotte's Web and The One and Only Ivan."
The Twelve by Cindy Lin
Usagi can hear a squirrel’s heartbeat from a mile away, and soar over treetops in one giant leap. She was born in the year of the wood rabbit, and it’s given her extraordinary zodiac gifts. But she can never use them, not while the mysterious, vicious Dragonlord hunts down all those in her land with zodiac powers. Instead, she must keep her abilities—and those of her rambunctious sister Uma—a secret.
After Uma is captured by the Dragonguard, Usagi can no longer ignore her powers. She must journey to Mount Jade with the fabled Heirs of the Twelve, a mystical group of warriors who once protected the land.
As new mysteries unfold, Usagi must decide who she stands with, and who she trusts, as she takes on deadly foes on her path to the elusive, dangerous Dragonlord himself.
"The Twelve is a book that makes you think one thing than its the total opposite and then you feel like a complete idiot for not realizing it. It reminded me of the Zodiac Legacy books but it takes place in a ancient era. This is one of those stories were I can’t tell to much or I’ll spoil it , but basically the story starts with Usagi, a girl born in the year of the Wood Rabbit. Her sister Uma and her best friend Tora are kidnapped by the Dragonlord. To save them she must go with the heirs of the twelve zodiac warriors but with some heirs missing they cannot defeat the Dragonlord without the twelve treasures. It's one heck of an adventure so you want stick around till the end!"
Queen of Ruin by Tracy Banghart
The stakes are higher and the battles bolder in Tracy Banghart's unputdownable sequel to Grace and Fury.
When the new, brutal Superior banishes Nomi from Bellaqua, she finds herself powerless and headed towards her all-but-certain death. Her only hope is to find her sister, Serina, on the prison island of Mount Ruin. But when Nomi arrives, it is not the island of conquered, broken women that they expected. It is an island in the grip of revolution, and Serina--polite, submissive Serina--is its leader.
Betrayal, grief, and violence have changed both sisters, and the women of Mount Ruin have their sights set on revenge beyond the confines of their island prison. They plan to sweep across the entire kingdom, issuing in a new age of freedom for all. But first they'll have to get rid of the new Superior, and only Nomi knows how.
Separated once again, this time by choice, Nomi and Serina must forge their own paths as they aim to tear down the world they know, and build something better in its place.
"When I reviewed the first book my only down note was that it didn’t have a sequel and here it is!! A highly addicting book series, Queen of Ruin is the second novel to the Grace and Fury series.
The sisters are separated once more, Nomi has to ask herself if she’s with the right prince and Serina and her boyfriend attempt something risky. It’s up to Nomi to save Serina, kill a man, and make sure they both get their happy endings.
I recommend this book to anyone looking to ignore their parents and get sucked into the crazy universe that Tracy Banghart has created."
The Beckoning Shadow by Katharyn Blair
Vesper Montgomery can summon your worst fear and turn it into a reality—but she’s learned the hard way that it’s an addicting and dangerous power. One wrong move and you could hurt someone you love.
But when she earns a spot in the Tournament of the Unraveling, where competitors battle it out for a chance to rewrite the past, Vesper finally has a shot to reverse the mistakes that have changed her forever.
She turns to Sam Hardy, a former MMA fighter who’s also carrying a tragedy he desperately wants to undo. However, helping heal Sam’s heart will mean breaking her own, and the competition forces her to master her powers—powers she has been terrified of since they destroyed her life.
"The Beckoning Shadow by Katharyn Blair is a thrilling fantasy that I just couldn't put down. It has exciting twists and turns and I couldn't always predict what would come next which I find is an impressive quality in all writing. It centers around Vesper Montgomery, a teen girl with an exciting but deadly supernatural power, and her quest to undo a mistake that she belives ruined her life. Overall I would recommend this to anyone who loves magic and great fight scenes."
Me Myself & Him by Chris Tebbetts
When Chris Schweitzer takes a hit of whippets and passes out face first on the cement, his nose isn't the only thing that changes forever. Instead of staying home with his friends for the last summer after high school, he's shipped off to live with his famous physicist but royal jerk of a father to prove he can "play by the rules" before Dad will pay for college.
Or . . . not.
In an alternate time line, Chris's parents remain blissfully ignorant about the accident, and life at home goes back to normal--until it doesn't. A new spark between his two best (straight) friends quickly turns Chris into a (gay) third wheel, and even worse, the truth about the whippets incident starts to unravel. As his summer explodes into a million messy pieces, Chris wonders how else things might have gone. Is it possible to be jealous of another version of yourself in an alternate reality that doesn't even exist?
"Me Myself and Him is a great slice of life read for a long car ride or if you’re just feeling like sitting on your couch for an hour or two. One major thing I feel was not explained in the summary on the back is that it follows two different timelines after one incident and I wish I had known that at the start because I was quite confused at first. It is slightly mature and had some touching parts about growing up and relationships but is still super fun and a relatable story. The book has some sexual jokes, drug use, friendship struggles, and family issues which is why I labelled it a mature book. I thought this was going to be a LGBTQ+ focused book from the summary on the back but even though that was a present part of the book it was not the main theme. I would definitely read another book by this author."
Awesome Dog 5000 by Justin Dean
Marty, Ralph, and Skyler might make the ultimate secret combo when battling alien-slime ninjas in their favorite video game, but in real life they're just regular kids. That is, until the three best friends discover Awesome Dog 5000, a robotic dog with very real power-ups. Awesome Dog can "bark" a sonic boom, "walk" at speeds over three hundred miles per hour, and "fetch" with an atomic cannon. Life for Marty, Ralph, and Skyler just got a major turbo-boost!
"I liked Awesome Dog 5000 a lot. I highly recommend this book because of how great the story line is and all the hilarious characters. I found myself laughing out loud a few times while reading it! This book is perfect for fans of the Dog Man series. Watch out for this amazing robotic dog and his awesome fun thrills!"
When We Were Lost by Kevin Wignall
Tom Calloway didn't want to go on a field trip to Costa Rica, but circumstances had him ending up sitting in the back of the plane--which was the only part that was intact after the crash in the remote South American wilderness. Tom and a small group of his classmates are fortunate to be alive, but their luck quickly runs out when some of them fall prey to the unfamiliar threats of the jungle--animals, reptiles, insects, and even the unforgiving heat. Every decision they make could mean life or death.
As the days go by and the survivors' desperation grows, things get even more perilous. Not everyone can cope with the trauma of seeing their friends die, and a struggle for leadership soon pits them against each other. And when they come across evidence of other people in the middle of the rainforest, does that mean they're safe--or has their survival come to an even more vicious end?
"When We Were Lost is a great book. It started out, carried on to be, and ended great, explaining perfectly what was happening. It is amazing writing and most of it is explained so well that I swear I could be there right next to the characters! It very nearly had me up all night, every night thinking: are they going to be okay? I'd better read one more chapter to be sure. It was like what I assume teleportation would be: One minute I'm at home, I open the book to my page and Blam! I'm in the jungle right along with those fantastic characters. I honestly could not say enough good things about this book. Eleven out of ten, Kevin Wignall. Eleven out of ten."
Spark by Sarah Beth Durst
Storm beasts and their guardians create perfect weather every day, and Mina longs for a storm beast of her own. But when the gentle girl bonds with a lightning beast—a creature of fire and chaos—everyone’s certain it’s a mistake. Everyone but Mina and the beast himself, Pixit. Quickly enrolled in lightning school, Mina struggles to master a guardian’s skills, and she discovers that her country's weather comes at a devastating cost—a cost powerful people wish to hide. Mina’s never been the type to speak out, but someone has to tell the truth, and, with Pixit’s help, she resolves to find a way to be heard.
"Spark is one of those books that you read, and then two days later you pick it up and think, "I'm going to read this again." Spark is filled with great characters. The plot is not what you'd expect from the beginning of the book. This book is great for ages 9 to 12. In this book, there are loads of unexpected twists. Spark has a bit of a slow start but when it gets started, it's a great book. Overall, this book is one of the best books I've ever read, and I think if you like books with action and surprising discoveries, you should read this book."
The Order of the Majestic by Matt Myklusch
Twelve-year-old daydreamer Joey Kopecky’s life has been turned upside down. After acing a series of tests, he’s declared a genius and awarded a full scholarship at a special (year-round!) school. He’s understandably devastated, until he takes one last test, and the room around him disappears, replaced by the interior of an old theater.
There, Joey meets the washed-up magician, Redondo the Magnificent, and makes a shocking discovery…magic is real, but sadly, there isn’t much left in the world. It may be too late to save what little remains, but for the first time in his life Joey wants to try—really try—to do something big. Soon he’s swept up into a centuries-old conflict between two rival societies of magicians—the Order of the Majestic, who fights to keep magic alive and free for all, and the dark magicians of the Invisible Hand, who hoard magic for their own evil ends.
The endless battle for control of magic itself has reached a tipping point. For Redondo and the Order to survive, Joey must inherit the lost legacy of Harry Houdini. Will he prove himself worthy, or will the Invisible Hand strike him down? The answer will depend on Joey’s ability to believe, not just in magic, but in himself.
"The Order of the Majestic is an amazing book! Joey’s parents think he’s a genius and try to send him to a new school for super smart kids. He is determined not to take the test to predict his potential, but when he gets to the testing facility, to his surprise, he gets a totally different test instead!! After he finishes the test, he finds a mysterious key tied to a string which transports him to a different dimension, leading to a competition for the most powerful magical artifact in the world. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who is fan of the Harry Potter or Magisterium series."
Weirdo by Ahn Do
"This is a story about a boy who has an unusual name - Weir Do. When he moves to a new school he is bullied by his classmates because he has such an unforgettable name. He also has a weird family and they have many funny experiences that make the reader laugh. Weir Do has a strange friend called Henry who answers to his name only when it is said three times. Henry also makes up his own version of nursery rhymes. This is odd but makes Weir laugh. There are many other similar adventures in this book. Anyone who enjoys comedy will love this book."
Greystone Secrets: The Strangers by Margaret Peterson Haddix
What makes you you?
The Greystone kids thought they knew. Chess has always been the protector over his younger siblings, Emma loves math, and Finn does what Finn does best—acting silly and being adored. They’ve been a happy family, just the three of them and their mom.
But everything changes when reports of three kidnapped children reach the Greystone kids, and they’re shocked by the startling similarities between themselves and these complete strangers. The other kids share their same first and middle names. They’re the same ages. They even have identical birthdays. Who, exactly, are these strangers?
Before Chess, Emma, and Finn can question their mom about it, she takes off on a sudden work trip and leaves them in the care of Ms. Morales and her daughter, Natalie. But puzzling clues left behind lead to complex codes, hidden rooms, and a dangerous secret that will turn their world upside down.
"This book is great! It's interesting because it is a mystery. The Strangers is about 3 kids that lose their mom. With the help of a girl named Natalie, they do everything they can to save their mom. If you like books with cliffhangers, you will love this. I would not change anything!"
The Boy, The Bird, and The Coffin Maker by Matilda Woods
Alberto lives alone in the town of Allora, where fish fly out of the sea and the houses shine like jewels. He is a coffin maker and widower, spending his quiet days creating the final resting places of Allora's people.
Then one afternoon a magical bird flutters into his garden, and Alberto, lonely inside, welcomes it into his home. And when a kindhearted boy named Tito follows the bird into Alberto's kitchen, a door in the old man's heart cracks open. Tito is lonely too--but he's also scared and searching for a place to hide. Fleeing from danger, he just wants to feel safe for once in his life. Can the boy and the old man learn the power of friendship and escape the shadows of their pasts?
"This book is good but sad. It is sad because people die, but otherwise it's great. The book is about 2 different people that meet each other. I would recommend this to anybody who likes to read."
Girls with Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young
The Girls of Innovations Academy are beautiful and well-behaved—it says so on their report cards. Under the watchful gaze of their Guardian, they receive a well-rounded education that promises to make them better. Obedient girls, free from arrogance or defiance. Free from troublesome opinions or individual interests.
But the girls’ carefully controlled existence may not be quite as it appears. As Mena and her friends uncover the dark secrets of what’s actually happening there—and who they really are—the girls of Innovations Academy will learn to fight back.
"This book was meant to be read. I loved it. I have nothing bad to say about it I need a book two! With a plot twist that will leave you wanting more. This book was compelling and once I picked it up I couldn’t put it down. It was a thrilling read. It was as if the pages turned themselves. Make your best friend read it! Make your parents read it! Make your siblings read it! But first read it yourself!"
Lion Down by Stuart Gibbs
For once, operations at the enormous zoo/theme park appear to be running smoothly (except for the occasional herring-related mishap in the penguin exhibit) and Teddy Fitzroy is finally able to give detective work a rest. But then a local lion is accused of killing a famous dog—and the dog’s owner, an inflammatory radio host, goes on a crusade to have the cat declared a nuisance so it can be hunted. But it looks like the lion might have been framed, and a renegade animal activist wants Teddy and Summer to help prove it. Soon, Teddy finds himself wrapped up in the middle of his most bizarre, hilarious, and dangerous case yet.
"Lion Down is a fun-filled, action-packed book. I really enjoyed this book because each chapter is exciting, suspenseful and interesting.
A mountain lion is framed for killing a local tv host's dog (King). Summer and Teddy try to figure out who actually killed King. Meanwhile, the tv host tries to kill the mountain lion for a crime she didn't commit. While they're trying to figure out the mountain lion case, other problems start to happen. Can Summer and Teddy do it all?
I recommend this great book to people who like action, adventure, and/or mystery books. Happy reading!"
The Collectors by Jacqueline West
Van has always been an outsider. Most people don’t notice him. But he notices them. And he notices the small trinkets they drop, or lose, or throw away—that’s why his collection is full of treasures. Then one day, Van notices a girl stealing pennies from a fountain, and everything changes. He follows the girl, Pebble, and uncovers an underground world full of wishes and the people who collect them. Apparently not all wishes are good and even good wishes often have unintended consequences—and the Collectors have made it their duty to protect us. But they aren't the only ones who have their eyes on the world’s wishes—and they may not be the good guys, after all.
"The Collectors is a story about a boy named Van, but Van is no ordinary boy. Although not a lot of things (and people) notice Van, he notices them. Van has a HUGE collection of little trinkets and things that other people throw away or lose. As the saying goes, 'One man's junk is another man's treasure'. Now, if you think that this book is just a book about a kid who was a hoarder, you are horribly wrong. One day while Van is waiting for his mother to get out of the shoe store (Can't we all relate?) he notices a mysterious girl and a silver squirrel (which is awfully strange on its own) but then something EVEN WEIRDER happens. They notice him. All of a sudden, Van gets pulled into a very strange place, where wishes come true... even the bad ones.
I liked this book because at the end, it made you want more, but in a good way, like you were satisfied but there could be more to the story. The one thing that I disliked about the book was that it moved a little slow, meaning that the problem didn't occur for a little while in the story.
I think that people would like this book if they like fantasy novels, and books that have sequels."
Raccoon Rescue by Kama Einhorn
At WildCare in San Rafael, California, many wild animals are brought in every day – skunks, birds, opossums, squirrels, and more – including raccoons. Four baby raccoons are put into the hands of WildCare staff, specifically volunteer Shelley. The kits need feedings, medicine, burpings, and even help going to the bathroom. The kits are not allowed to spend any time with other humans – they can’t be used to humans once they are returned to the wilds of suburbia. A steady process involving enrichment, exercise, outdoor exposure– and more than you’ll ever think you’ll know about raccoons and other city wildlife – fills the pages of Raccoon Rescue.
"The Book Raccoon Rescue is a good and different book. It's told by one of the raccoons! Some parts are sad but other parts are cute and funny. It's an amazing book because they start the size of a lemon and end the size of a watermelon and it gives you interesting facts about raccoons."
Misfits by Jen Calonita
In Enchantasia, becoming a legendary prince or princess doesn't happen overnight. Enter Royal Academy, the training ground for the fairy tale leaders of tomorrow!
But Devin has major reservations about her new school and her royal future. How can she be a princess and the best creature caretaker Enchantasia has ever seen? It doesn't help that there's something seriously weird about RA's headmistress. Olivina seems obsessed with preparing students for possible attacks from villains ("A royal can't rule when they're stuck in a tower!") Devin gets that being Snow White and Rapunzel's fairy godmother has probably made Olivina pretty paranoid, but anytime someone steps a toe out of line, Olivina becomes more of a fairy nightmare than a fairy godmother.
Something isn't right with this lady, and Devin is determind to find out what. But what Devin discovers could change the fairy tale world forever...
"Why I would recommend Misfits: I would strongly recommend Misfits for anyone who likes fairy tales and fairy tale mashups (like myself!) Also, if you like cliffhangers, this book is full of them!
My opinion: In my opinion, Misfits is great but it has a lot of cliffhangers. It almost ends in what I would say is the middle so be prepared for a long wait until the next book comes out! All in all, Misfits is a great book and I really enjoyed reading it!"
The Third Mushroom by Jennifer L Holm
Ellie's grandpa Melvin is a world-renowned scientist . . . in the body of a fourteen-year-old boy. His feet stink, and he eats everything in the refrigerator--and Ellie is so happy to have him around. Grandpa may not exactly fit in at middle school, but he certainly keeps things interesting. When he and Ellie team up for the county science fair, no one realizes just how groundbreaking their experiment will be. The formula for eternal youth may be within their reach! And when Ellie's cat, Jonas Salk, gets sick, the stakes become even higher. But is the key to eternal life really the key to happiness? Sometimes even the most careful experiments yield unexpected--and wonderful--results.
"I highly recommend this book because it's sad but also funny. It was sad because my favourite character died but the other characters kept me interested in finishing the book. This book also teaches you a very valuable lesson but you will have to read it to find out what it is."
Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith
Princess Aurelia is a prisoner to her crown and the heir that nobody wants. Surrounded by spirits and banned from using her blood-magic, Aurelia flees her country after a devastating assassination attempt. To escape her fate, Aurelia disguises herself as a commoner in a new land and discovers a happiness her crown has never allowed. As she forges new bonds and perfects her magic, she begins to fall for a man who is forbidden to rule beside her. But the ghosts that haunt Aurelia refuse to abandon her, and she finds herself succumbing to their call as they expose a nefarious plot that only she can defeat. Will she be forced to choose between the weight of the crown and the freedom of her new life?
“Bloodleaf is the story of a princess called Aurelia. She is hated in her kingdom. She cannot use blood magic and a blood mage called Toris tries to assassinate her. She runs away to another kingdom called Achleva. She takes a new name, Emily.
I liked that there was suspense and cliffhangers at the end of chapters. Aurelia is a strong character and she has a good heart. I like that she uses a lot of magic. I recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy and adventures.”
Click by Kayla Miller
Olive “clicks” with everyone in the fifth grade—until one day she doesn’t. When a school variety show leaves Olive stranded without an act to join, she begins to panic, wondering why all her friends have already formed their own groups . . . without her. With the performance drawing closer by the minute, will Olive be able to find her own place in the show before the curtain comes up?
“I would recommend the book CLICK because there are some parts of the book that make you feel like Olive feels and it ends in an exciting cliff hanger! If any of you like Raina Telgamier’s books then you will probably like CLICK. My favourite part is at the end when it makes you feel happy for Olive. So I recommend this great read!!”
The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe
Norris Kaplan is clever, cynical, and quite possibly too smart for his own good. A Black French Canadian, he knows from watching American sitcoms that those three things don’t bode well when you are moving to Austin, Texas. Plunked into a new high school and sweating a ridiculous amount from the oppressive Texas heat, Norris finds himself cataloging everyone he meets: the Cheerleaders, the Jocks, the Loners, and even the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Making a ton of friends has never been a priority for him, and this way he can at least amuse himself until it’s time to go back to Canada, where he belongs.
Yet against all odds, those labels soon become actual people to Norris…like loner Liam, who makes it his mission to befriend Norris, or Madison the beta cheerleader, who is so nice that it has to be a trap. Not to mention Aarti the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who might, in fact, be a real love interest in the making. But the night of the prom, Norris screws everything up royally. As he tries to pick up the pieces, he realizes it might be time to stop hiding behind his snarky opinions and start living his life—along with the people who have found their way into his heart.
The Field Guide to the North American Teenager
“This book was the perfect mix of funny, cute and disastrous. With a teenager who has no control over his mouth moving from Montreal to Austin, Texas, it’s expected that there will be some second hand embarrassment and there most definitely was. I’d recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a storyline with a negative protagonist.”
Max and the Midknights by Lincoln Pierce
Max wants to be a knight! Too bad that dream is about as likely as finding a friendly dragon. But when Max's uncle Budrick is kidnapped by the cruel King Gastley, Max has to act...and fast! Joined by a band of brave adventurers--the Midknights--Max sets out on a thrilling quest: to save Uncle Budrick and restore the realm of Byjovia to its former high spirits!
“Max and the Midknights: What an awesome comic! Oh! I almost forgot that you haven’t read it yet! Let me tell you a little bit about it…
Max and the Midknights is about a ten-year-old girl named Max, who has always wanted to be a knight. Unfortunately, her uncle is a Troubadour and every child in the city of Byjovia must become what their parent is (or was), so that’s never gonna happen… until now. When Max’s uncle Budrick is kidnapped by the horrible and nasty king of Byjovia, Max knows that she must save him! Max and her friends (the midknights part of Max and the Midknights!) go on a big adventure to save uncle Budrick! (And do other stuff along the way!)
This book is filled to the brim with action, adventure, mystery, and of course a lot and a lot and a lot and a lot of COMEDY! I think that if you enjoy graphic novels such as Big Nate and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, you will LOVE this book! So what are you waiting for? Start reading!”