Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Juniper Berry

Author: M.P. Kozlowsky
Illustrator: Erwin Madrid
Publisher: Walden Pond Press (April 26, 2011)
Source: ARC for Review
Audience: Ages 9 to 12 years
Fiction * Modern Fairy Tale * Elementary

Description from GoodReads:
Juniper's parents have not been themselves lately. In fact, they have been cold, disinterested and cruel. And lonely Juniper Berry, and her equally beset friend, Giles, are determined to figure out why.

On a cold and rainy night Juniper follows her parents as they sneak out of the house and enter the woods. What she discovers is an underworld filled with contradictions: one that is terrifying and enticing, lorded over by a creature both sinister and seductive, who can sell you all the world's secrets in a simple red balloon. For the first time, Juniper and Giles have a choice to make. And it will be up to them to confront their own fears in order to save the ones who couldn't.

M.P. Kozlowsky's debut novel is a modern-day fairy tale of terror, temptation, and ways in which it is our choices that make us who we are.

Sometimes the key to writing something scary is to simply write the truth. M. P. Kozlowsky in his debut middle grade novel Juniper Berry combines just the right aspects of the truth with powerful storytelling for a novel that grabs you from beginning to end.  Juniper Berry has everything in some ways except for the attention and affection of her famous parents.  She wishes for friends, for a life outside of her family's home, and most importantly for her parents to see her again.  While exploring the woods around her home, she meets a boy named Giles.  It seems that Juniper's parents aren't the only one who have been changing.  Giles has been noticing a change in his parents as well. Together the two discover a secret that is both alluring and terrifying.  And how does a woodcutter, a raven, and a red balloon fit into this puzzle?

Kozlowsky plays with common themes of desire and hope and the consequences of getting what you asked for.  Juniper and Giles are likeable protagonists that you want to root for as they must address what is happening to their parents, the struggles in their own lives, and some attractive choices.  As I read through the story, I could feel tension that these two children are facing.  Layered with a secret underworld and a really creepy adversary, the two children must fight for their lives and the lives of those they care for.

Juniper Berry will appeal to both female and male readers.  The story maintains a steady pace culminating in a battle which will determine the winner.  Though I wondered at times if children would fully grasp the extent of the author's underlying message about temptation, I never doubted that it would be a story they would enjoy and one that would be easy to book talk.

Kozlowsky's debut novel is a winner and I look forward to future books from him.  If this is on your "to be read" pile, I would encourage you to bump it up or at least add it to a summer reading list for students.  Thanks to Kellie and Walden Pond Press, I have a hardcover copy of JUNIPER BERRY by M.P. Kozlowsky to giveaway. This contest is open to readers in the U.S. or Canada only. To enter to win, please complete the form below.   

To check out Juniper Berry Blog Tour Week 2, head on over to the Walden Pond Press blog here.
To read M.P. Kozlowsky's guest post The World Outside A Book's Cover, click here.
For more information on M.P. Kozlowsky, check out his website here.

Here is the Official Book Trailer for Juniper Berry:

* Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays were started by Shannon over at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe. You can check out her Marvelous Middle Grade Monday choice and Giveaway Post here.

Rules for the Contest:

1. Please do not enter any personal information in the comments section, you must complete the Entry Form to officially enter the contest. Comments with personal information will be deleted.
2. The Contest runs from 12:00 a.m. PDT on May 16, 2011 to 11:59 p.m. PDT on May 21.
3. You DO NOT need to be a follower of this blog to enter.
4. You must be 13 or older to participate in this contest.
5. If you are selected as a winner, I will notify you by e-mail. If you do not respond within 48 hours, I will select a new winner.
6. Only US and Canadian participants may enter the contest.