Category Archives: Children & Teens

Fiction that is written for a younger reader (K to 12th grade) and / or includes content appropriate for all ages. Can include the same themes as Young Adult but without the added adult themes that may not be suited for some in the same age group depending on maturity or parental guidance.

The Taken by Iserles

the-takenFROM THE PUBLISHER: The first book in a thrilling fantasy trilogy starring one of the animal kingdom’s most hunted heroes. Foxcraft is full of excitement and heart, and a touch of magic.

The Taken
Foxcraft #1
by Inbali Iserles
Scholastic Press
September 2015

Isla and her brother are two young foxes living just outside the lands of the furless — humans. The life of a fox is filled with dangers, but Isla has begun to learn mysterious skills meant to help her survive. Then the unthinkable happens. Returning to her den, Isla finds it set ablaze and surrounded by strange foxes, and her family is nowhere in sight. Forced to flee, she escapes into the cold, gray world of the furless. Now Isla must navigate this bewildering and deadly terrain, all while being hunted by a ruthless enemy. In order to survive, she will need to master the ancient arts of her kind — magical gifts of cunning known only to foxes. She must unravel the secrets of Foxcraft.

REVIEW: A fox, Isla, returns to her home one day to find it destroyed and her family missing. So she goes in search of them. To find them she will have to gain new magical abilities (Foxcraft). While this is a pretty straight forward premise, this story diverges from the expected by placing the world of the magical foxes firmly in contemporary human society (think muggles). This isn’t just about fantastical creatures who live in a fantasy setting and I appreciated that. Personally, I found the book to be a little slow at times and ended up skimming some chapters to get to better ones later on. By the end, there was a satisfying set up for the next book in the series. I found it a fun, interesting, easy fantasy read. But I’m not the target audience.

Here’s what my 12 year old daughter thought: “This book is absolutely amazing! It’s so full of adventure and mystery. I really loved the idea of foxes and how the story was laid out. I enjoyed the interactions between the characters and how they acted differently towards each other. I think everybody will enjoy this book a lot for those reasons! And many many more!” So satisfied target audience: achieved.


Sunshine is a 12 year old avid book reader who we love to ask what she thought of the books she reads so we can share a young reader’s perspective with you!

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Galaxy Pirates: Hunt for the Pyxis by Ferraris

galaxypiratesFrom the publisher: On the night Emma Garton’s supposedly boring parents are kidnapped, she is forced to face the truth that they’ve been lying to her about many things. The most important of which? They aren’t even from planet Earth.

The Galaxy Pirates: Hunt for the Pyxis
by Zoe Ferraris
Crown Books for Young Readers
August 2015

To find her mom and dad, Emma and her best friend, Herbie, must leave Earth and enter the Strands—the waterways of space, where huge galleons ply the intergalactic seas. But a journey through the constellations won’t be easy—not with every scoundrel in the galaxy determined to find them and the pyxis, a mysterious amulet that holds the key to saving their world.

REVIEW: I really enjoyed this book! I think that there was a lot of thought put into this book, and a lot of creativity, and that’s why I personally love it so much! I was of the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading because I was so excited to find out what would happen next! It’s a very adventurous and imaginative book, so I think that anybody who likes adventure and intensity will love this. I really enjoyed reading or watching the characters really come to life from the pages. They are so well described and thought out and all their personalities are amazingly put together! When I was done reading I felt as if I knew them as real people. They felt so alive to me, after reading that book I just feel very inspired to go out and do something fun or adventure somewhere with friends. I really think this could be considered enjoyable to all ages I’d say around 12-13 and up due to some of the language. Overall all I can really say that I didn’t enjoy about it was all the bad language they used. Because the characters come out to be so young…I didn’t really expect that from them, but I guess I can’t blame them…the were basically living with pirates haha. My personal favorite part is when they go to space for the first time and they get to explore everything and they just seem so astonished by their surroundings! I wish that I could live in this book. I really hope a second one comes out soon! I just know everybody will really love reading this amazing story.


Sunshine is a 12 year old avid book reader who we love to ask what she thought of the books she reads so we can share a young reader’s perspective with you!

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Adventures of Mickey Matson and the Pirate’s Code

piratesThe movie is about a boy and a girl who join a secret pseudo-governmental society (that they have unbeknownst family ties to) and quickly find themselves fighting against a shadowy plot to take over the world using sci-fi tech and cleverness. The film is filled with former A or B level actors who fill in as aging comedy relief, evil geniuses or beloved mentors. If you were thinking about Spy Kids (or any of the sequels) you’d pretty much be right.

The Adventures of Mickey Matson and the Pirate’s Code
Pure Flix
June 2015

In this movie it is Mickey and Sully who stop the plotting of the “pirate” Ironsides with the aid of Mickey’s [SPOILER] grandfather (who was supposed to be dead; and sadly looks it). Former bigger name or bigger recognition actors fill up the movie: Christopher Lloyd (Grandpa), Frank Collison (Ironsides), Tia Carrere (Lynch – she is oddly not listed in IMDB or Amazon, but she is in it), etc.

As far as family films go this is standard fare. It’s clean, fun, cheesy, a little action and drama but no death or fear instilling moments… and most importantly – loved by kids. My boys (5 and 9) loved this. Just like they love Spy Kids, Sky High, or Sharkboy and Lavagirl and other very similar films. It’s tolerable for parents as well.

If you’re looking for a fun, family night movie I recommend this one to you.

Congrats to Robert B. of Smyrna, TN for winning a copy of this movie!


@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This film was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Cassidy’s Guide to Everyday Etiquette (and Obfuscation) by Stauffacher

cassidyEleven Cassidy gets sent to etiquette school to rub off some of her rough edges. The plotline of a troubled kid who gets sent to class to refine her sounds like the premise of a dozen Disney movies, but there are three problems with this story in my opinion. First, it’s very tough to root for bratty Cassidy and second, there isn’t a real payoff at the end, and third, it is slow moving and in my opinion is downright boring at times.

Cassidy’s Guide to Everyday Etiquette (and Obfuscation)
by Sue Stauffacher
Knopf Books for Young Readers
June 2015

Since I’m not the target audience for this book, after I was done with it, I decided to give it to my daughter (11 years old – so right in the target demo) to see what she thought. Here’s what she said, “I didn’t really like this book a whole lot. I think it was very dragged out, and it had a lot more details than necessary. I liked the way the plot was laid out, but towards the end of the book or kinda got boring. I was very happy with how the characters where created, because characters are supposed to be detailed, I think they turned out very well. This book is definitely one for around the ages of 13-14 years due to some of the language. (“Big words”). This book is more for people who have a very high reading level, like they read the Harry Potter books and things like that. I think I would’ve enjoyed the book a whole lot more if it was just a little more straight forward. Overall I enjoyed it, but I think it’s not really normally the type of book I would like to read.”

My final thoughts: Cassidy and her antics are definitely in the love or hate category. How she acts, whether we root for her or even like her is really dependent on the reader. I didn’t. My daughter kinda did. We both thought it was boring at times and neither of us really liked the book. With so many really good books out there I find this one hard to recommend.


@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

Sunshine is a 11 year old avid book reader who we love to ask what she thought of the books she reads so we can share a young reader’s perspective with you!

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

I Am Princess X by Priest

PrincessXForced by circumstances to sit out together during PE, Libby and May became the best of friends. Together they created Princess X and wrote story after story together. Until tragedy strikes And Libby is taken from May’s life.

I Am Princess X
by Cherie Priest
Arthur A. Levine Books
May 2015

After the funeral, Libby’s father moved away and donates everything in their home – including all the stories and artwork for Princess X. May becomes distraught at losing both her best friend and their creation. Then May’s parents divorce and life competes its turn towards terrible.

Three years later, May is staying with her father in Seattle and comes across the most unexpected of things: a sticker featuring Princess X! And then she finds more. And a webcomic… that tells the story of of Libby’s tragedy in a completely unexpected way. Had someone found their stories and changed them or is Libby somehow so alive?

Adventure ensues as May starts looking for clues to solve the mystery of the webcomic and uncover the true story of what halogens that night to Libby.

This is an outstanding, tense book! It’s a mystery, drama and young reader novel all in one and the best part is that no fluffy romance muddling up the core story. No love triangles.

NOTE FOR SOME PARENTS: The only complaints I had were in just a few small parts that as an adult I don’t mind but since this is a book for young readers (middle to high school) they probably could have been avoided. First the only mention of religion is when May and Libby come across an “angry white man” shouting about how sinners go to hell. That’s an overplayed negative bias that had no part in the story. Second, there are a couple throw away sentences about “marriage equality” that play no part in the story. Again, political bias displayed for no reason. Every family in the book is divorced. Every family. Divorce happens but not at a rate of 100%. Finally, one of the latter main characters is gay. Since none of the characters hook up, sexual preference isn’t explained for any other characters and romance plays no part in the story this is irrelevant. One has to wonder why they are included.

I’m not suggesting that there can’t be hateful religious characters, gay people, divorce or political issues in books. But almost all of these are not necessary to the story and story pop up out of no where and don’t go anywhere. For children I’d prefer we stay away from these topics if we can.

A great story that’s very well written with only a few small decisions that some parents may object to.


@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Lizard War by Patton

battlebugsMax loves bugs. All kinds of bugs. So when his mother brings him an ancient book of bugs and corresponding magnifying glass you can imagine his excitement! That enthusiasm quickly turns to terror when he finds himself on an island in the book, small, and facing an Emperor Scorpion!

The Lizard War
Battle Bugs (Book 1)
by Jack Patton
Scholastic

Somehow, Max finds himself inside the book, on the map in the center of it on Bug Island. Another island, hosting the Lizard Empire, has recently had an eruption of their local volcano where the lava has formed a land bridge to Bug Island. The lizards are now filing across the new bridge to the massive amounts of food (bugs) available on this island. Max, lacking all the cool powers and abilities of bugs uses the one thing humans have that bugs don’t – his large brain – to help the bugs fight back.

But that’s not exactly how it goes though. The story is full of loop holes in logic and storytelling. Max is at heart a lover of nature but for some reason he dislikes lizards – who are evil because they eat bugs, but bugs that eat bugs are not evil, like the spider or scorpion he befriends – and sides with the bugs. [SPOILERS] His big brain helps in two very small ways, 1) telling the bugs to attack the lizards on the nostrils, and 2) telling them to escape across a fast moving stream by cutting down a tree. Neither of those ideas display knowledge of bug specific abilities or human specific knowledge. You could say that the beetle cuts down the tree because they chew through wood to be bug specific, but why didn’t the beetle think of it? The “Battle” bugs don’t actually fight much, and the story ends with them running away across the stream and Max going back home. [END SPOILERS]

In the end, you don’t have much or a story at all. Almost nothing happens. No character development. No battles. Very little learning about the bugs. It’s a big shrug. I let my science loving 8 year old read it and he gave up, calling it boring.

This is a cross between Honey I Shrunk the Kids (shrinking and adventure) and Ant Bully (but where Max actually likes bugs) but it’s not as funny and much less happens. In my opinion, there isn’t much to recommend it.


@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Tapper Twins Go to War (With Each Other) by Rodkey

TapperMaybe it’s the comic book lover in me, but I love the trend in young reader / teen reader books including art, graphics, comics and diagrams to further the story. I think about Captain Underpants, Dork Diaries and others. This book does also does this very well. And it’s a good book, too.

The Tapper Twins Go to War (With Each Other)
by Geoff Rodkey
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
April 2015

Reece and Claudia are siblings that just can’t stop one-upping each other with pranks. How it started may be a misunderstanding but at this point its on. And the best part is that they determine to document the whole thing in this book. Both siblings use the book to provide evidence against the other. Evidence is presented in diagrams, illustrations, pictures and narrative form.

I love that the story includes both perspectives (although lead by Claudia) – the way the book is written naturally illustrates the ongoing “war.” Bickering is documented. They argue with each other as the author changes perspectives regularly. The book also includes “interviews,” “stolen” screen shots of phone texts and such with other characters, like the parents, the sitter and friends at school.

(I also loved the useless trivia hidden in pictures and diagrams, which reminded of asides on Family Guy (but clean) or the Simpsons. Sarcastic, silly and fun.)

While the book is written for Middle Schoolers but adults will enjoy it as well. It is clean, so no worries. Consequences are natural and shown so lessons also get learned. A fun book.


@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Nnewts by Doug TenNapel

nnewtsThe Nnewt city is beset by evil Lizzarks in an unprovoked attack that devastates the people and leaves young Herk alone and on the run. The problem is that Herk is handicapped by under developed legs. As he struggles to survive he also searches for a way to restore his legs and find his destiny.

Nnewts
#1 Escape from the Lizzarks
by Doug TenNapel
GRAPHIX
January 2015

At times the story seems disconnected and problems are solved too conveniently and quickly. For instance, Herk has a disability but instead of overcoming it he [SPOILERS] fights the god of the Lizzarks who stole them from him as a child. It’s over with a single blow off a rock to the head. How did he get there? At a temple in the ruins of the Nnewt city, where he finds nnewts2himself after his family is murdered, and guided by an old king who appears and disappears just as quickly. Then he’s at a huge city of Nnewts ams is saved by an arrow from a constellation. [END SPOILERS] I know there is a lot left untold at this point as this is only book one but I felt things really moved quickly with very little back story. Hopefully future books clear some of this up.

This is a book written with 8-12 year old kids in mind and I think that’s the nnewt3right age group for reading skill and interest. It may be rough on some to see the content depictions of Herk’s parent and siblings killed. As my 8 year old said, [SPOILERS]  “The book is interesting but a lot of people die.” (See pictures to the left for the death of the mother.) [END SPOILERS]

The art is great – something you’d expect since the author created Earthworm Jim – and the story, while abrupt is fun and complex. I recommend it to older – 3rd grade and up – readers.


@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Meet the Bigfeet by Sherry

bigfeetBlizz Richards misses his yeti family reunion but with George Vanquist, self styled cryptozoologist, on the prowl for pics of bigfoot can it be risked?

Meet the Bigfeet
The Yeti Files 1
by Kevin Sherry
Scholastic
September 2014

The family get togethers ended when Vanquist got a pic of fellow yeti Brian. Now everyone is too afraid to get together and no one knows where Brian is. Blizz and his pals travel across the globe to find Brian, get the family back together and avoid Vanquist.

The story is fully illustrated (greyshade watercolor) it looks suitably comical. Characters are wild and wacky and sometimes overly so. Vanquist is called “evil” but until the very end when he [SPOILERS] mistreats his dog and threatens to send him to the pound do we see why he would be considered evil. Prior to that, he was simply a human looking to take pictures of a bigfoot, which doesn’t seem evil at all. [END SPOILERS]

Reading level solidly 2nd to 5th with very few long or difficult words. I provided this book to my son, who is in second grade, and he had no trouble reading the words. He did have some trouble finishing it because it just wasn’t very interesting. While it is an easy read, it really isn’t an exciting read. The story bounces between the elf/goblin parts to the wolf parts to the yeti parts to Vanquist with little or no explanation as to why it jumps so frequently. It seems scattered and in the end there is no lesson learned, no character development, and very little excitement.

This is a numbered series with the second book, about the Loch Ness monster, set up on the final pages. But unless it is more exciting and more happens I’m not sure this series will be successful.


@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Beforever: A Brighter Tomorrow by McDonald

imageA young girl who recently moved to San Fransisco from Ohio with her mother and brother finds a mood ring that magically transports her back in time to 1975 where she meets Julie Albright. Your choices move the story along.

A Brighter Tomorrow: My Journey with Julie
American Girl Beforever Journey
by Megan McDonald
illustrated by Juliana Kolesova and Michael Dworkin
American Girl Publishing
August 2014

Growing up I was a big fan of Choose Your Own Adventure. As an adult I love mobile phone games and Kindle books, like Click Your Poison, that serve the same purpose: allowing you to put yourself and your decisions in the story. Unfortunately, the American Girl Beforever series is no CYOA.

I’ve now read three of these books and each one provides many choices and endings but they just aren’t as exciting as CYOA.

This was the best of the three I read when it comes to the possible lessons learned as it is my opinion that this one being so close to our own time it is more relatable than some of the farther back ones. Girls cant play on a basketball team?! readers may wonder. And in that way this book actually brings the lessons home. Not necessarily the lessons of the book but more a familiarity with the time. Also, I’m disappointed that it seems like every American Girl Beforever book I’ve read seems to have a common plot point of the main character (you) dealing with having only one parent. In this case, Julie’s parents are getting a divorce and the young girl (you) just moved across the country without her father.

While these are like CYOA, there are some big differences. Here’s the key difference in a nutshell: in good CYOA type books you feel like you are playing the book. In AG: B books you feel like you are making the choices that the writers want you to make. It’s tied, in my opinion, to the fact that these books serve as advertisements for existing dolls with their own histories and stories so there is no wriggle room. If these were new dolls with new stories this wouldn’t be an issue.

Further, what is up with requiring readers to go online to beforever.com/endings to see certain endings? When you visit that site you see the endings for ALL the books in the series! This is a terrible way to end a “book” but a great marketing way to target young girls.


@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.