Category Archives: Middle School

An Interview with Catholic Author, Leslea Wahl

I’m so excited to get to share my interview with Leslea Wahl with you all today!  I am a little star struck, I have to admit, whenever I get talk to someone I really admire.  Ms. Wahl is one of those people!  Not only is she a great young adult author, but she tells her story and shares her faith with such entertainment!  Her books are great adventures and mysteries and I, for one, am so glad she has decided to start writing.

We are so blessed to have her books entering the Catholic fiction genre.  Check out my interview…I think you will love her as much as I do!

Can you tell us a bit about you and your family?

I live in beautiful Colorado with my husband and three children. Although “children” doesn’t really describe our kids anymore. Our oldest just graduated college, our middle child is currently in college and our “baby” will be a senior in high school. As a family, we love to travel and try new adventures like zip-lining, jet skiing and scuba diving.

What made you decide to start writing and why did you chose to write for a young adult audience?

I’ve always been creative but never thought about writing a novel, especially for teens. But when  my older children were preteens and began searching for YA books to read, I was having a really hard time finding books that they wanted to read that also reflected our values. I wondered why no one was writing these kinds of books. Then one day I woke up and the story of my first novel, The Perfect Blindside, just came to me. The characters and scenes kept flooding my mind until I finally started to write them down. I definitely felt God called me to write that book. Since then my passion has been to write Young Adult fiction and to encourage teens in their faith. Continue reading An Interview with Catholic Author, Leslea Wahl

A Beautiful Adventure: A Review of ‘An Unexpected Role’

“The most beautiful and stirring adventure that can happen to you is the personal meeting with Jesus, who is the only one who gives meaning to our lives.”–St. John Paul II

Reading Level

Grades 7-12

Review and Comments

Sixteen-year old-Josie has left her family to spend the summer with her Aunt Lily after some embarrassment and bullying at her high school.  Since, in her mind, her mother has caused the bullying, Josie is happy to get away.

Josie loves the small island where her aunt lives and she is able to quickly make friends with people while there including an incredibly handsome and exotic guy  named Niko. Unfortunately, someone from her high school is also there, Ryan McNaulty.  She is afraid he is there to continue the bullying begun by his friends at school, and is shocked to find that he wants to be her friend. Continue reading A Beautiful Adventure: A Review of ‘An Unexpected Role’

God’s Plan For You: A Review of ’10 Ultimate Truths Girl’s Should Know’

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” – St. Catherine of Siena

Interest Level

 Ages 12-18 [Pre-teens and Teens]

Review and Comments

This book was written for young pre-teen and teen aged girls, but it is also an excellent resource for mothers.  The teen years can be difficult because of peers, society, and just the normal self-discovery of growing up.  Kari Kampakis discusses ten truths that a girl should understand so that “when she discovers God’s purpose, she can live her best life possible.”

Each of the ten chapters covers a specific truth such as: popularity, reputation, perseverance, patience, image, and God’s plan.  The chapters begin with a very good lesson that sets the tone for further explanation and discussion. Then there are every day examples that illustrate the difficulties girls face. The challenges range from: mean girls, insecurities, choices, peer pressure, positive vs negative attention, to self image. But there is also joy in being a girl and these truths pierce the darkness of those challenging times. Continue reading God’s Plan For You: A Review of ’10 Ultimate Truths Girl’s Should Know’

Hold on Tight: A Review of ‘The Night Gardener’

“The tighter you squeeze, the less you have.”–Thomas Merton

Reading Level

Grades 5-8

Review and Comments

The story of The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier is one of darkness and mystery.  Set in VIctorian England, Molly and Kip have set out looking for work and are accepted by the Windsor family.  The new job is brings on a terror that the two children were not expecting.

When Molly first arrives at the home of the Windsors, she immediately notices how dirty it is and how it looks as though it hasn’t been taken care of in ages.  Slowly, she realizes that something is amiss.  The old pictures of the family show them as younger looking, healthy and vibrant.  Now they look pale, sickly, and their eyes look lifeless. Continue reading Hold on Tight: A Review of ‘The Night Gardener’

Another Door Opens: A Review of ‘Bud, Not Buddy!’

“The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.”–  Mother Teresa

Reading Level

Grades 4-5          [common core]

Grades 3-5, 6-8 [according to Scholastic which reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently]

Grade 5                 [AR]

Interest Level

Grades 4-8          [AR]

Review and Comments

Bud, Not Buddy is a story about a ten year boy who is virtually alone in the very harsh world of the Great Depression.  Bud is living somewhere between the memories of his deceased mother and a yearning for the father he never knew.  During his search for his father, the reader is exposed to lessons about this period in history through the people Bud meets and his deepest thoughts and feelings as only a ten year old can express them. Continue reading Another Door Opens: A Review of ‘Bud, Not Buddy!’

Fight Courageously: A Review of ‘The Shadow of His Wings: A Graphic Biography of Fr. Gereon Goldmann’

And of what should we be afraid? Our captain on this battlefield is Christ Jesus. We have discovered what we have to do. Christ has bound our enemies for us and weakened them that they cannot overcome us unless we so choose to let them. So we must fight courageously and mark ourselves with the sign of the most Holy Cross.”–Saint Catherine of Sienna

Interest Level

Grades 7+

Review and Comments

If there was ever a story of courage, faith, and commitment, it is the story of Father Gereon Goldmann.  His story begins with him being drafted into the loathsome SS during WWII.  As a strong German Catholic who had been in the seminary, this is a great struggle.  Father Goldmann is strong, however, and remains committed to our Lord through it all and because of this, he is able to minister to so many. Continue reading Fight Courageously: A Review of ‘The Shadow of His Wings: A Graphic Biography of Fr. Gereon Goldmann’

Finding Greatness: A Review of ‘Wonder’

“Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness.” –from Wonder

Grade Level:

Grades 5-8

Review and Thoughts

Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, is one of those great middle elementary books that teaches everyone the struggles and beauties of life and how sometimes they become entwined and we can’t have one without the other.

The story begins with our introduction to August Pullman who has been born with a terrible facial deformity.  In fact, when he is first born, he tells us that the nurses took him away so that his mother couldn’t see him.  He goes on to explain how everyone is so shocked and flustered in the hospital, but when his mother sees him, she notices how beautiful his eyes are and loves him the way any mother would.  And so the book begins with that combination of struggle and beauty and continues throughout. Continue reading Finding Greatness: A Review of ‘Wonder’

Sacred Touchstones: A Review of ‘Will Rider, The Relic of Perilous Falls’

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. – Ephesians 6:13

Reading Level: 3.7; grade 7 [There are two very different suggestions for the reading level.]
Interest Level: Ages 8-12; Ages 10+

Review and Comments:
The Relic of Perilous Falls is a powerful story of good and evil, truth and deceit, belief and skepticism. The confrontation between these forces centers on the relic of St. Thomas the Apostle. The more recent history of the relic begins during WWII when a brave young man named Jacob Wilder undertakes a daring mission to rescue the bones of St. Thomas. He is not the only one who desires the relic however. It is evident from the very beginning of the story that evil has manifested itself and will do anything to possess the precious bones. Jacob takes intricate measures to protect the relic and its power. He builds Peniel as a sanctuary to safeguard relics in the town of Perilous Falls, “the last stronghold against the dark madness of the world.” Continue reading Sacred Touchstones: A Review of ‘Will Rider, The Relic of Perilous Falls’

Into the Wild: A Review of ‘The Wild Robot’

“A year spent in artificial intelligence is enough to make one believe in God.”—Alan Perlis

Reading Level

Grades 5-8

Review

The draw of The Wild Robot is definitely its premise.  We’ve all read stories of characters trying to survive in the wilderness in books like Hatchet and Robinson Crusoe.  We’ve also read futuristic stories of robots who have evolved to act more and more like humans.  Rarely, however, are the two instances put together as they are in this novel. Peter Brown brings us this intriguing situation and, I admit, this is what drew me to the book. Continue reading Into the Wild: A Review of ‘The Wild Robot’

The Unloved and the Forgotten: A Review of ‘Wolf Hollow’

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”—Saint Teresa of Calcutta

Grade Level

6-8

Review and Thoughts

Our story begins with Annabelle, a young girl who lives on her family’s farm during WWII.  Everything is fine for Annabelle and her family until a new girl, Betty Glengarry, arrives at a nearby farm and starts making trouble.  In fact, in my opinion, she is absolutely horrific.  She begins bullying and torturing Annabelle on her way to and from school and Annabelle is constantly afraid. Continue reading The Unloved and the Forgotten: A Review of ‘Wolf Hollow’