Fergus and Zeke and the Field Day Challenge by Kate Messner

Fergus and Zeke and the Field Day Challenge

Kate Messner, Author

Heather Ross, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Apr. 14, 2020

Pages: 51

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Classroom pets, Mice, School, Field Day, Competition

Opening: Fergus and Zeke always had fun in Miss Maxwell’s room. They did everything the children did.

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Fergus and Zeke love being the class pets in Miss Maxwell’s classroom. From science experiments to art projects, they do everything the students do. But on Field Day, none of the events are the right size for the small mice — the limbo is too easy, the high jump is too hard, and kickball is absolutely terrifying! So Fergus and Zeke create their own Field Day Challenge, with mouse-size tug-of-war, acorn throwing, and Hula-Hooping.

After all the fun and exercise, it’s time to go back to the classroom — but Fergus and Zeke are locked out! Will they be able to use their new skills to get inside in time for ice pops?

Why I like this book:

Best friends, Fergus and Zeke, are back for another adventure that is packed with humor and a lot mouse power. This is Kate Messner’s third book in her fun-loving Fergus and Zeke chapter book series for children who are learning to read on their own.

Kids will enjoy the suspense of these miniature-sized atheletes who can’t wait for Field Day. And despite their size, they are determined to compete with their classmates and find a creative way to to keep up with the class races. They may not be able to scramble beneath the teacher’s big parachute, so they create their own by using a recycled plastic grocery bag.

There are four chapters in the book with happy, expressive and colorful illustrations on each page — good for a lot of giggles. Make sure you check out the first two books, Fergus and Zeke and Fergus and Zeke at the Science Fair.

Kate Messner is passionately curious and writes books for kids who wonder, too. A former teacher, she has written more than thirty picture books, chapter books, and novels for young readers. She lives on Lake Champlain with her family.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in an exchange for a review.

The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner

Seventh Wish51YFk8Hy66L__SX329_BO1,204,203,200_The Seventh Wish

Kate Messner, Author

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, Fiction, Jun. 7, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Magic, Wishes, Ice Fishing, Irish Dancing, Siblings, Family Relationships

Opening: “I’ve only seen the ice flowers once.”

Book Jacket Synopsis: When Charlie Brennan goes ice fishing on her town’s frozen lake, she’s hoping the fish she reels in will help pay for her dream: a fancy Irish dancing dress for her upcoming competition. But when Charlie’s first catch of the day happens to be a talking fish offering her a wish in exchange for its freedom, her world turns upside down, as her wishes go terribly — and hilariously — wrong.

Just as Charlie is finally getting the hang of communicating with a magical wishing fish, a family crisis with her older sister brings reality into sharp focus. Charlie quickly learns that the real world doesn’t always keep fairy-tale promises and life’s toughest challenges can’t be fixed by a simple wish.

Why I like this book:

Kate Messner’s charming coming of age book, The Seventh Wish, is appropriate for all middle grade students. Her imagery is beautiful as she cleverly weaves magic into the story with Charlie’s catching a talking fish that grants her wishes. The wishes may at first seem like an easy way to help herself and her friends, but she soon discovers that life’s challenges aren’t always easy. Especially when Charlie discovers her older sister has a drug addiction and overdoses.

Messner bravely addresses some meaty issues, like heroin addiction, in an age-appropriate manner. I know this has caused some controversy. But I believe it is an issue that siblings may face with older brothers and sisters. And as in any family health crisis, Charlie feels invisible when her parents’ focus shifts to concern about Abby’s addiction and Abby’s treatment. Because of Abby, Charlie dreams are put on hold as she has to adjust her life, make excuses to her science fair team and dance friends, misses an important Irish dance competition and can’t buy her new glittery costume. I know some families who would appreciate this book.

The story is character-driven, with Charlie narrating. Her voice is an authentic and typical of a middle grade girl and a younger sister. She loves school and is interested in her friends and boys. Her passion is Irish dancing and she’s working hard to move up to higher levels of difficulty. She overcomes her fear of the ice and spends a lot of time ice fishing on the pond with her neighbor, Drew, and his grandmother,  Mrs. McNeill, who bring some balance to Charlie’s life. She catches a lot of perch and realizes that she can earn enough money to buy her first real dance glittery Irish dress.

The strong plot is clever and engaging. In the first half of the story we really get to know Charlie and her relationship with her family and friends. After the fateful call about sister’s overdose, the second half  focuses on Abby and the family in crisis mode. The pace is fast-moving with many unexpected twists that will have reader fully engaged and surprised. This is an excellent book that will help teens to discuss drugs and addiction with family and teachers.

Kate Messner is a former middle-school English teacher and the author of All the Answers, Wake Up Missing, Eye of the Storm, Sugar and Ice, The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. and its e-book companion, The Exact Location of Home, Capture the Flag, Hide and Seek, and All the Answers. She has also written chapter and picture books. Follow Kate Messner at her website.

Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.