Whatcha Reading, Jr? August 2022

By: Shanleigh Klassen Photo By: @fictionologyst

Let's take a peek at what the OwlCrate Jr team read and loved over the past month!

Want even more great recs? Check out OwlCrate's monthly wrap up as well! 

Beatrice and Croc Harry by Lawrence Hill

I'll start by saying I'm a huge fan of Lawrence Hill's adult works, so I was both excited and a little apprehensive about reading his foray into middle grade. I need not have worried!

Beatrice and the Croc Harry is as charming as it is insightful. We follow Beatrice, who wakes up in the middle of the forest not remembering who she is, or how she got there. She makes friends with a HUGE crocodile named Harry who helps her on a journey to discover who she is and where she came from.

I loved reading about Beatrice rediscovering her identity and having the courage to stand up to injustices that get in her way. Plus, who doesn't love talking animal sidekicks?


Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Nizhoni Begay used to want to be famous on social media, but now she'll really take any sort of popularity she can get. But beyond her struggles to get positive attention, Nizhoni can also see monsters! And Mr. Charles, who is set to be Nizhoni's dad's new boss, just so happens to be one. Yikes!

When her dad doesn't heed Nizhoni's warning he's kidnapped, and it's up to Nizhoni, her brother Mac, and her best friend Davery to try to save him. They set out on a quest and hope to reach the House of the Sun before it's too late.

Full of Navajo mythology, Race to the Sun is a page-turning read that had me laughing on one page and gasping on the next. It really focuses on the importance of family and having respect for the land (Mr. Charles works for a huge oil company that wants to exploit it! Boo!). This book was another hit from the Rick Riordan Presents imprint and it's a standalone so there's no long commitment!

— Cori

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Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston 

This is the story of Amari Peters, whose older brother goes missing under mysterious circumstances, and she soon discovers that he nominated her to try out for a spot at the Bureau of Supernatural affairs. Amari is determined to accept her nomination and find out what happened to her brother, but when she's told she has an ability that’s considered illegal in the supernatural world, and that she shares that ability with the greatest threat to their world, she realizes the odds are severely stacked against her. Can Amari prove she belongs in the Bureau and find her missing brother in time?

I know, I know, I’m super late to the Amari party! Sorry! Last year when this book took over the middle grade scene, I kept meaning to pick it up and only just got around to it now. I have to admit, I was keeping my expectations low because of how much everyone was hyping it up, but I can now honestly say that I get it. I get why this book is so beloved. And it’s not because of the magic, or because of the super fun secret agent school setting (which, in all fairness, is pretty awesome), but because Amari is one of the coolest, most relatable main characters you could hope to encounter. She’s super smart, a great friend, and doesn’t give up in the face of adversity. I hope both kids and adults pick this one up, because it’s 100% worth the hype. Can’t wait to find out what happens next in the series!

— Babs

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See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

This was absolutely charming and I loved every minute of it! I listened to the audiobook which has some great enhancements and an ensemble cast. The story itself was far beyond what I expected it to be.

11-year-old Alex, who is collecting a series of slice-of-life voice recordings on a golden iPod that he hopes to launch into space, embarks on an unconventional road trip adventure with this dog, Carl Sagan. His main destination is SHARF, a rocket festival in New Mexico. Along the way, he makes some unlikely friends and ends up on a journey taking him to Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and back to his small town in Colorado.

In the beginning, Alex seems like this plucky kid but we soon learn his life hasn’t been as easy — what he sees as his normal life is actually a bit heartbreaking from an outside perspective. It’s a story of friendship, family, and the bumps in the road of life. This is a story that is going to stick with me for some time. A must-read.

— Crystal

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The Carrefour Curse by Dianne K. Selarni

There is a part of me that wishes I'd saved this eerie mystery for when the nights were shorter and the ground was littered with leaves, but instead I gobbled it up during a bright and sunny heat wave. The Carrefour Curse by Dianne K. Selarni is the story of 12-year-old Garnett Carrefour, who has grown up with her mom, far away from her extended family and Crossroad House, the dark and spooky mansion they all live in together. Her mother's intention is to keep it that way, but as Garnett learns when she starts spontaneously belching frogs in the first chapter, it's no easy task to overpower a summoning from her relatives...

I had so much fun getting to know the strange and secretive Carrefours alongside Garnett, who is both thrilled and terrified to finally be in the family fold. Described as The Addams Family meets The Haunting Of Hill House for the middle grade set, Selarni's story unfolds at an excellent pace, full of atmospheric detail, classic gothic elements, and just enough magic. Make sure to add this to your fall reading list!

Out on January 31, 2023!

— Sally

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The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat

Sai is the assistant to Mangkon’s most celebrated mapmaker and hides her lowly origins from the status-obsessed kingdom she resides in. But then they secure a position for an expedition to chart the southern seas and with it, the potential to change her circumstances. As the voyage goes on however, loyalties will be tested and sacrifices will be made.

This is a stunning story that somehow holds conversations on colonization, the fall-out of war, and the human impact on the environment in a way that's thought-provoking but never preachy. I think that's because Sai is a brilliant, crafty, and sharp character that carries this story with heart and with the hope for a better future. I can easily see this story topping 'Best Of' lists and snapping up medals as it rightfully should. 

— Shanleigh

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