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September 25, 2018
A Middle Grade Death Note
“With great power comes great responsibility.” ~Voltaire
I have great power.
That’s what she told me. The old fortune-teller at the school carnival.
I thought I was doing the right thing … with the magic journal she gave me. But nothing could prepare me for what happened next.
Or, for what I unleashed.
At a school carnival, a mysterious fortune-teller gives twelve-year-old Angela Ashby a journal and warns her to use it wisely. Nothing prepares Angela for the journal’s power—when she pours her heart onto its pages her desires come true.
She tests the journal by conjuring a gnome, a unicorn, and a farting fairy and then uses it to stop the school bullies in their tracks. But the unintended consequences alienate her best friend and puts her favorite teacher in danger of losing her job.
After she shares her deepest desire of all—that her parents get back together—her adversary steals the journal, and Angela fears she will use it to bring mayhem to the entire school if she doesn’t get it back.
Out in the hallway, Billy Shipman pinned Zach to the wall by the front of his shirt. Zach’s feet weren’t even touching the ground. Everyone gave them a wide berth. No one wanted to become Billy’s next target. Clusters of students whispered to one another, and a few brave souls tried to inch past without attracting notice.
What had poor Zach done? Sometimes all it took was breathing in Billy’s space.
Billy reminded me of a baboon I once saw at the zoo. He had small eyes, a long nose that ended in flared nostrils, and a vicious snarl.
I whipped the journal out of my pack. Here was a chance to use its magic for good.
Billy Shipman is such a bully. He should get a taste of what it feels like to be bullied by someone bigger and stronger than him.
An angry yowling sound reached my ears as I quickly shoved the journal back in my pack so no one asked me about it. I scanned the hallway, but no one looked brave enough to have made the noise.
The outside doors flung open and all conversations stopped. I’d never seen the kid who came through the doors before. He wore biker boots, jeans, and a leather jacket with a T-shirt underneath. His wallet was hooked to his studded belt with a chain. If Billy Shipman was big, this kid was humongous.
“Hey Shipman. What’re you doing picking on a runt?”
Billy let go of Zach, who slid down the wall.
Once Zach’s feet touched ground, he bolted.
The big kid reached Billy and shoved him in the chest. Billy slammed into the wall.
“Where were you?” He grabbed Billy by the shirt and hefted him in the air, just like Billy had done to Zach. “We got together and waited, but you were a no show.”
Excited murmurs broke out from those who hadn’t escaped the building.
“Do you see that …?”
“Finally, Billy’s gettin’ it.”
“I—I c-c-can explain, Spike.” The color left Billy’s face.
Spike? What a name for the bully of the bully. It sounded like something you’d name your Pitbull.
Maybe he was like a Pitbull gone bad.
His malice filled every crevice in the hallway. “No explanations. And no excuses.”
He pulled Billy off the wall, raised him even higher, and slammed him against it again. Billy’s head snapped back and banged the wall with a sickening thunk. Then Spike let go. Billy slid to the ground. He slumped against the wall, dazed.
A teacher poked his head outside the door. “Is there a problem here?”
Where had he been when Billy had Zach plastered against the wall?
Spike turned off his hostility, like someone flipped a switch, and the tension drained from the hall.
Billy shook his head and scrambled to his feet. “No problem. I tripped and fell.”
Copyright © 2018 by Liana Gardner
Praise for THE JOURNAL OF ANGELA ASHBY
"Gardner has created a likable character in Angela, who faces off with the class bully in defense of herself and her best friend. Alternately full of sass and seriousness, Angela quickly learns that writing in her new journal may lead to some unintended consequences, some hilarious and some grave. An enjoyable tween romp about the familiar world of bullies mixed with a bit of magic, this one would be great for a class read or group discussion." ―Seattle Book Review
"The Journal of Angela Ashby is a middle grade fiction by Liana Gardner and is perfectly written for the target audience. A combination of magic, childhood troubles, social messages, and the need to think before acting is prevalent, and a lesson well ingrained into the pages, There is some good tension building, injections of humour, and character development. Angela and Mallory make a great team, perfectly complementing each other in the way close friends do. This is certainly a book I will read with my son when he is older, as I think it instills some important lessons and values,much like the old 80's and 90's cartoons used to do. While the book itself has a clear beginning and end, there are hints that a sequel may follow, and it's certainly something I would consider picking up. If you're looking for a story of friendship, childhood problems, and a healthy sprinkling of magic in everyday life, then look no further." ―K.J. Simmill, Award-Winning British Author
"The Journal of Angela Ashby by Liana Gardner is a charming story of action and consequence. Gardner presents her characters and their problems with an equal touch of magic and reality. This allows the message of the tale to come through while entertaining instead of preaching. Gardner does a great job of taking what could be a clichéd story and putting a few twists in it to keep it fresh and humorous." ―Kris Moger, Readers' Favorite
"The Journal of Angela Ashby is an engaging and fun coming-of-age story about a twelve-year-old girl who is suddenly the possessor of great power. I loved following as Angela began to appreciate her journal's powers and realized the importance of carefully considering everything she wished for.Throughout the story, Gardner addresses the issue of bullies and bullying, which is something all kids and most adults have to deal with at some point, and she shows how Angela learns to differentiate between solving the problem and descending into bullying behavior herself.Gardner also admirably addresses the stress and confusion felt by kids and tweens when their mom and dad get divorced. The Journal of Angela Ashby is a marvelous fantasy that brings up real-life issues without lowering the magic and fun potential for a moment, and Sam Shearon's illustrations really make it all come alive most brilliantly." ―Jack Magnus, Author
**About the Author**
|Photo Content from Liana Gardner|
Liana Gardner is the award-winning author of 7th Grade Revolution and the Misfit McCabeseries. Daughter of a rocket scientist and an artist, Liana combines the traits of both into a quirky yet pragmatic writer and in everything sees the story lurking beneath the surface. Engaged in a battle against leukemia and lymphoma, Liana spends much of her time at home, but allows her imagination to take her wherever she wants to go. She fostered her love of writing after reading Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and discovering she had a great deal in common with the character Jo. The making up of stories, dramatic feelings, and a quick temper were enough for her to know she and Jo would have been kindred spirits. Liana volunteers with high school students through the International Trade Education Programs (ITEP). ITEP unites business people and educators to prepare students for a meaningful place in the world of tomorrow. Working in partnership with industry and educators, ITEP helps young people “think globally and earn locally.”
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Note: This Review contains NO spoilers
The Journal of Angela Ashby is set in the life of young middle schooler Angela Ashby and the reader follows her transition from a carefree child to one burdened with a journal that turns fantasy into reality. The character introduction lasts a fair number of chapters without feeling drawn out. The reader is introduced to Angela, her family, her closest friends, and enemies and then the story dives into the main subject of the plot, the powers of the journal.
As a reader, we see Angela’s subtle transition on how she uses the journal. She struggles with her decisions and the story forces her to define her morality, her intentions, and their consequences. Angela is playful but mature for her age, and The Journal of Angela Ashby has a good moral standpoint on bullying and dealing with family issues, which makes me recommend this story for middle school and freshman in high school. Revenge and the transition of becoming a bully lingers in her thoughts.
The author, Liana Gardner, spins a story young people going through coming of age struggles can relate to. But during the time I read this story, a concern of mine arose. I was told The Journal of Angela Ashby is “a middle-grade Death Note.” The largest mistake I can make is to hear other people’s interpretations in fear of letting the words of another take influence. In the back of my mind, I had to keep the comparisons at bay because the thought of killing another human being should be the farthest thing from a twelve-year-old girl’s mind who is also transitioning into adolescence and that she is not an eighteen-year-old genius with a silver tongue.
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