Middle-Grade Monday | #CYBILS2023 Book Reviews 12.11.2023

Happy Monday readers!! This week’s middle-grade selections offer readers a front row seat to history and will engage them in ways likely to surprise them! In Maybe an Artist, Liz Montague presents her journey to becoming a cartoonist in the New Yorker. She shares the question she asked herself as a young girl. Not surprisingly (to adults) they are many of the same questions today’s kids ponder and explore even today.  

In Light Comes to Shadow Mountain Toni Buzzeo captures the push, pull, and unconditional love not just between a mother and daughter, but within a family.  The year has changed, but the dynamics have not. 

Summaries via Goodreads. Clicking the cover takes you there.


Richetta @ Goodreads: First, let’s talk representation! Shoutout to Black cartoonists and illustrators in the graphic design and art world. My daughter actually has tried to snatch the book from me several times while I tried to write this review because she is really into art and drawing right now and seeing a Black girl on the cover drew her to the book like a magnet. Overall Thoughts: This is a great quick read and I love that it is in the author’s artistic medium. It touches on topics of growing up, identity and following your dreams. Love the representation and I hope to hear more artists of color tell their stories. I would definitely recommend to parents and teachers for their students and children. Montague’s story deals with many of the questions and issues that preteens and teens will face and I think this book will help them with their reflections as they proceed in their own life journeys.

Deborah Z @ Goodreads: A graphic memoir about the life of Liz Montague, a cartoonist who struggled with finding her path in life. Was she an artist? A track star? A journalist? Would she choose the right career path? The story highlights the stresses of growing up in a world that she doesn’t understand. Why people are mean to each other, how do we save the planet, the anxiety of feeling invisible, struggling with dyslexia, being a left-handed person in a right handed world. This was a quick read, however, I wish the author had shown what happened when she was properly diagnosed with dyslexia and how she overcame her anxiety. Overall, a solid graphic novel for any secondary level school library collection.


Cindy on behalf of Kiss the Book, review by Lisa Librarian: Beautifully written and so engaging! I loved Cora and her best friend Cielly; they were the perfect schemers and planners.  Cora’s twin brothers were realistic 4 year-olds, and even Cora’s cousin from the city was well developed. Buzzeo’s descriptions of the girls pressing baby clothes with the stove-heated irons, the danger of the soap making, and the one room school house were fantastic. I love nostalgia, especially the Great Depression, unfortunately, it’s a hard sell to my middle school students. The Tipton family is white, descended from Scottish immigrants. 

Jessica @ Cracking the Cover: Light Comes to Shadow Mountain is picture book author Toni Buzzeo’s debut middle-grade novel, but it doesn’t read like one. Buzzeo, a former elementary school librarian, captures the time, place and characters with heartfelt grace.

Cora is bright and driven. She looks forward to change while her mother fears it. These opposing views drive the story forward, forcing Cora — and readers — to consider the pros and cons of progress. Both Cora and her mother are well conceived, as are the supporting characters. The rollout of electricity in rural America is a compelling backdrop on which her story of family, friendship, and loss are explored. Many a daughter will relate to the mother/daughter dynamic that plays out here.