Monday, May 9, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday--Justin Case (and a Giveaway!!!)

Okay, here's hoping Marvelous Middle Grade Monday will be back on track for a while--thank you guys for your patience with me. And I thought I'd get back in the habit with a book that is both heartwarming and hilarious: JUSTIN CASE: School, Drool, and other Daily Disasters by Rachel Vail.

Here's how the publisher describes the plot:

It’s the start of the school year, and nothing feels right to Justin. He didn’t get the teacher he wanted, he’s not in the same class as his best friend, and his little sister, Elizabeth, is starting kindergarten at his school. Elizabeth doesn’t seem nervous at all. Justin is very nervous about third grade. And to top it off, he’s lost his favorite stuffed animal, but he can’t tell anyone, because technically he’s too old to still have stuffed animals. Right? Here is third grade in all its complicated glory—the friendships, the fears, and the advanced math. Acclaimed author Rachel Vail captures third grade with a perfect pitch, and Matthew Cordell’s line art is both humorous and touching. As Justin bravely tries to step out of his shell, he will step into readers’ hearts.

I discovered this book last July, at the SCBWI LA conference. Rachel read a section from it in one of her breakout sessions, and I was hooked. There aren't a lot of books out there about kids who worry like this--and as a kid who worried a LOT (okay, FINE--I still worry a lot as an adult. My husband and friends and even my agent will verify)--I had to know more about how this very nervous little boy coped. And I was a fangirl from the first page.

Justin is instantly likable--and so relatable. Rachel NAILED his voice. And she does an expert job of showing us how unrealistic his fears often are, but at the same time making us understand why they are very much a real concern for him. We feel what he feels, and we're worrying for him and rooting for him just as much as he is for himself.

Filled with clever, funny illustrations and written in journal style, this is a GREAT book for reluctant readers. But avid readers will gobble it up too. As will adults. I highly, highly recommend you give it a chance. The paperback comes out this week (so. excited!). But I'm also giving away a hardcover to one lucky commenter on this post.

**Update: Rachel, in all her awesomeness, is offering a signed and personalized bookplate to go with the winner's prize. So now you get the hardcover and a signed bookplate to go inside. Thank you Rachel!**

To enter, simply follow my blog and leave a comment by 11:59 pm PDT on Saturday, May 14th. I'll draw one random winner and post their name on Sunday, May 15th. International entries welcome! Good luck!

For more information on Rachel or any of her amazing books, make sure you check out her website. Click HERE to be taken straight there.

For more incredible middle-grade recommendations, check out the other MMGMs happening in the blogosphere:

-Joanne Fritz discusses THE SHADOW CHILDREN SEQUENCE books. Click HERE to read her review.

-Shannon O'Donnell always has an awesome MMGM recommendation. Click HERE to see what she's featuring this week.

-Natalie Aguirre is interviewing author Rosanne Parry, with a giveaway of SECOND FIDDLE. Click HERE to read more and enter.

-Sheri Larson is hosting author Kari Lee Townsend on her blog to talk about SAMANTHA GRANGER. Click HERE to read the interview. 

-Barbara Watson is highlighting STEINBECK'S GHOST. Click HERE to see what she thinks.

-Sherrie Peterson, is reviewing the audiobook for THE INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD. Click HERE to read all about it.

-Aly Beecher is featuring JEREMY BENDER VS THE CUPCAKE CADETS. Click HERE to read her review.

-Anita Miller is showcasing HEAT. Click HERE to learn more about it. 

-Deb Marshall is featuring COLD CASE. Click HERE to read her review. 

-Michael Gettel-Gilmartin makes his MMGM debut, featuring THE WEDNESDAY WARS. Click HERE to read more about it.

And if you've done an MMGM on your blog and would like me to link you, drop me an email and I'll update the post. 

Happy Monday!


  1. This is really sweet. I can picture my son worrying like this back in 3rd grade. What goes on in our poor children's minds sometimes. Please enter me to win!

    tmilstein at gmail dot com

  2. I love the title of this book!! Such a play on words! So awesome!

  3. Sounds like a great book. And it's hard to nail a third grader. Love the cover and title.

  4. The book sounds very sweet and I love that he's in third grade. Such a pivotal time for a young kid. :) Thanks for including me in the links, Shannon. :) I forgot to mention that Kari is giving away a signed copy of her book!!

  5. Sounds like a great middle grade read aloud.

    And I do love a good play on words!


  6. Yay for MG! Off to check out some of these other blogs ...

  7. I read this book to my son when it first came out because he gets anxious, like Justin.

    THANK YOU Rachel for writing this book!!

    My son said in a surprised voice, "Hey, he's like me." And it really helped him to feel less alone. Wonderful and fun read.

  8. Oh! This sounds good! Can I just tell you again how much I love MMGM?

    I also have a MMGM on my blog...HEAT.

  9. I started reading this book last week (from the library), and I LOVE IT! I swear, she knew my son when she was writing this. I swear! It is him to the letter.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  10. I am a follower and email subscriber. Please enter me in contest.

  11. I was at that conference and heard Rachel read from this, too! :) Sounds great! Oh, and I'm a follower.

  12. Looks like an amazing story. Something well needed. I need to get this book. Thanks Shannon!

  13. Sounds a little like Alvin Ho which my students love. Please enter me. Thanks.

  14. Wee-oooo! Looks adorable!

  15. Awww, I'm a worrier too! :) Count me in! (And I *cough* still have stuffed animals...*

  16. Pick me!

    Randomly yours,


    p.s. worrying is state of being for me, lol

  17. hi miss shannon! sounds like a pretty good book but maybe some to young for me but maybe it doesnt matter for my age. yikes! i still got a stuffed animal for my best friend. wow theres so much mgms! i hope im could get to as much as i could before i get to tired.
    ...hugs from lenny

  18. When someone described this book to me, I teared up. We've moved a lot, and one of my sons for a time found adjusting difficult. I love the tender approach and dignity extended to Justin and would love a chance to win.

  19. I'm a chronic worrier, so count me in! My son loves stuffed animals, I just bought him a sock monkey for his birthday.

  20. Great to see Michael making his debut! He's a dangerous man however.

    I need this book in my hands. Thanks Shannon for another great MMGM.

  21. Thanks for the great review. Middle Grade is where it's at! I hadn't seen this one. Always, looking for great books for my reluctant reader granddaughter.

  22. It sounds like a super great read. I'd love to be entered. Not only that, I'd like to win. :)

  23. Love Rachel's books! Sounds good.

  24. Sounds interesting!

    Just finished a book you might like: THE SUMMER BEFORE BOYS.

  25. Great review, Shannon. I'm always looking for funny books for boys and good books for reluctant readers.

    Count me in. I'll try not to worry about it too much if I don't win!

    And thanks for the linkage.

  26. This would have been perfect for my oldest when he was in third grade (he's now in 8th); my second-grader doesn't seem to worry at all! Go figure.

    Thanks for linking to my blog, Shannon. I hope to do many more MMGMs now that Middle Grade Mafioso is up and running.

  27. Please enter me!
    GFC follower

    thegirlonfire27 at gmail dot com

  28. I am ordering this RIGHT NOW for my 3rd grader. He'll LOVE it! Thanks, #1. :-)

  29. Great review! Awesome cover! I'd definitely like to read this book.
    : )

  30. Hi! Rachel Vail here -- I just stumbled upon this site and now I have tears in my eyes, picturing all of you especially those with sensitive boys and girls in your lives!

    Shannon, I love your blog. Thanks so much for your kind and enthusiastic words.

    Can I offer a signed bookplate to your JUSTIN CASE winner?

    Rachel Vail

  31. I have an almost 3rd grader and I'm sure she'd love to read about Justin Case. Way to go Rachel!

    xo Bernadette

  32. Ahhh--hi Rachel! Thank you so much for stopping by (and the compliment on my blog). I would LOVE to add a signed bookplate from you for the winner. Not sure if you're following this comment thread, so I'll see if I can track down your email and figure out how to coordinate. If I can't, feel free to shoot me an email at packratx (at) hotmail (dot) com.

    And thank you for writing such an amazing book!

  33. This book looks terrific and I'd love to win! Thanks for the opportunity.

  34. my website is: RachelVail (dot) com

    my email is: RachelVailBooks (at) gmail (dot) com

    Thank you so much -- the comments are fantastic and I do love this blog! So glad I found it!!!

    The paperback copies arrived at my apartment today -- and visiting with you here is my wonderful celebration! Well, maybe a glass of Champagne would be a good idea, too. Right?

  35. SOunds like fun! thanks for the chance! wilsondev(at)

  36. I have a third grader. He worries a lot, and he loves funny books. Thanks for the recommendation!

  37. I would love to win a middle grade book! As a translator, I was looking to new books for kids to propose to publishers and would be great to read this!

  38. I think there must be tons of kids out there who worry a lot like this. Thanks for the recommendation.

  39. This sounds cute!! I can recommend it to others

  40. Woohoo for another MS giveaway!

    I'm a follower. :)

    thecozyreader @


Yay-I love comments! Thank you so much! (But please remember to keep your comments spoiler-free. Also, I try to keep this a happy, positive place. Friendly debate is fine, but always be kind to each other). <3