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A Soft Place to Land

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In this compelling and heartfelt mystery story, Janae Marks—author of the critically acclaimed bestselling From the Desk of Zoe Washington—follows a young girl reshaping her meaning of home. Perfect for fans of Erin Entrada Kelly and Rebecca Stead. "Joyful. A book that kids will love." — Rebecca Stead, Newbery Medal-winning author of When You Reach Me Joy Taylor has always b In this compelling and heartfelt mystery story, Janae Marks—author of the critically acclaimed bestselling From the Desk of Zoe Washington—follows a young girl reshaping her meaning of home. Perfect for fans of Erin Entrada Kelly and Rebecca Stead. "Joyful. A book that kids will love." — Rebecca Stead, Newbery Medal-winning author of When You Reach Me Joy Taylor has always believed home is the house she lived in her entire life. But then her dad lost his job, and suddenly, home becomes a tiny apartment with thin walls, shared bedrooms, and a place for tense arguments between Mom and Dad. Hardest of all, Joy doesn't have her music to escape through anymore. Without enough funds, her dreams of becoming a great pianist—and one day, a film score composer—have been put on hold. A friendly new neighbor her age lets Joy in on the complex's best-kept secret: the Hideout, a cozy refuge that only the kids know about. And it's in this little hideaway that Joy starts exchanging secret messages with another kid in the building who also seems to be struggling, until—abruptly, they stop writing back. What if they're in trouble? Joy is determined to find out who this mystery writer is, fast, but between trying to raise funds for her music lessons, keeping on a brave face for her little sister, and worrying about her parents' marriage, Joy isn't sure how to keep her own head above water. "Squeezes your heart in such a special way." — Lisa Moore Ramée, author of A Good Kind of Trouble and Something to Say "Readers will find hope in Joy's courage, ingenuity, and fierce dedication to her friends." — Kate Messner, author of Breakout and Chirp "A timely story about connection, loss and the spaces we need to understand one and brave the other." — Paula Chase, author of So Done and Dough Boys


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In this compelling and heartfelt mystery story, Janae Marks—author of the critically acclaimed bestselling From the Desk of Zoe Washington—follows a young girl reshaping her meaning of home. Perfect for fans of Erin Entrada Kelly and Rebecca Stead. "Joyful. A book that kids will love." — Rebecca Stead, Newbery Medal-winning author of When You Reach Me Joy Taylor has always b In this compelling and heartfelt mystery story, Janae Marks—author of the critically acclaimed bestselling From the Desk of Zoe Washington—follows a young girl reshaping her meaning of home. Perfect for fans of Erin Entrada Kelly and Rebecca Stead. "Joyful. A book that kids will love." — Rebecca Stead, Newbery Medal-winning author of When You Reach Me Joy Taylor has always believed home is the house she lived in her entire life. But then her dad lost his job, and suddenly, home becomes a tiny apartment with thin walls, shared bedrooms, and a place for tense arguments between Mom and Dad. Hardest of all, Joy doesn't have her music to escape through anymore. Without enough funds, her dreams of becoming a great pianist—and one day, a film score composer—have been put on hold. A friendly new neighbor her age lets Joy in on the complex's best-kept secret: the Hideout, a cozy refuge that only the kids know about. And it's in this little hideaway that Joy starts exchanging secret messages with another kid in the building who also seems to be struggling, until—abruptly, they stop writing back. What if they're in trouble? Joy is determined to find out who this mystery writer is, fast, but between trying to raise funds for her music lessons, keeping on a brave face for her little sister, and worrying about her parents' marriage, Joy isn't sure how to keep her own head above water. "Squeezes your heart in such a special way." — Lisa Moore Ramée, author of A Good Kind of Trouble and Something to Say "Readers will find hope in Joy's courage, ingenuity, and fierce dedication to her friends." — Kate Messner, author of Breakout and Chirp "A timely story about connection, loss and the spaces we need to understand one and brave the other." — Paula Chase, author of So Done and Dough Boys

30 review for A Soft Place to Land

  1. 5 out of 5

    Afoma (Reading Middle Grade)

    A Soft Place to Land is a sweet, heartfelt story about finding friendship and community and handling financial difficulties as a family. Kids who enjoy books about friendship groups, starting a business, and navigating relationships with younger siblings will enjoy this one. Read my full review on my blog. Many thanks to the publisher for an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. A Soft Place to Land is a sweet, heartfelt story about finding friendship and community and handling financial difficulties as a family. Kids who enjoy books about friendship groups, starting a business, and navigating relationships with younger siblings will enjoy this one. Read my full review on my blog. Many thanks to the publisher for an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Camryn

    First things first, this is a beautiful cover. I think parents in some middle grade books just seem annoying and really bossy because that's how it feels when you're not exactly a teenager with more freedoms, but you're not a little kid, either. I kept being frustrated with Joy's parents in this just like I was frustrated with the parents in the author's first book. But I think that's just... how it is. I have to say that I didn't like this book as ZOE WASHINGTON. It just didn't grip me in the sam First things first, this is a beautiful cover. I think parents in some middle grade books just seem annoying and really bossy because that's how it feels when you're not exactly a teenager with more freedoms, but you're not a little kid, either. I kept being frustrated with Joy's parents in this just like I was frustrated with the parents in the author's first book. But I think that's just... how it is. I have to say that I didn't like this book as ZOE WASHINGTON. It just didn't grip me in the same way. I think this will be a good read for younger readers and it's not like I'll leave this a negative review because I don't think it was intended for me, you know what I mean? But there are some middle grade books that are super engrossing and memorable even for adults and I just didn't feel that way about this one. It just felt... flat. I don't know. It's me! I'm still excited for anything this author writes, though. My favorite part about this book was probably the dogs. Ziggy is an icon.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Yingling

    ARC provided by Follett First Look Joy's family is moving into an apartment because her father is out of work and they could no longer afford their house. It's a difficult adjustment, especially since it also means that some things that really make Joy happy, like piano lessons, are also out of the question. She is enthralled by movie scores and wants to write music for them, so it's important that she keep up her skills. Luckily, one of the first people she meets in the building is Nora, who has ARC provided by Follett First Look Joy's family is moving into an apartment because her father is out of work and they could no longer afford their house. It's a difficult adjustment, especially since it also means that some things that really make Joy happy, like piano lessons, are also out of the question. She is enthralled by movie scores and wants to write music for them, so it's important that she keep up her skills. Luckily, one of the first people she meets in the building is Nora, who has her own family issues (her mother died when Nora was young) and shares Joy's love of movies, although she wants to be a film maker. Nora thinks the two could work together, and introduces Joy to the apartment building's big secret-- a hidden storage area that the kids in the building have furnished with cast offs and call "the Hideout", and don't tell ANY of the adults about. It's a great place to get a break from her kid sister, Malia, and from her parents' constant arguing. It's also good for meeting other kids in the building, and Joy finds some graffitti on the wall that makes her think another kid is struggling as much as she is, and she tries to get to know the other kids in order to help. In order to make some money to put towards their film making preparation, Nora and Joy start a dog walking business and get four neighbors whose dogs they walk. When Joy falls asleep in the Hideout and her mom finds her and blows the secret, she and Malia have a bit of a falling out, which leads to problems with their business. At the same time, Joy's dad is spending more and more time at his brother's because he needs "space", and Joy is worried that her parents will divorce. Will Joy be able to make things right with her new friend, and settle into life in the apartment, no matter what it brings? Strengths: There are not as many books about children living in apartment buildings as I imagine there are children living in apartments! There are also a lot of children who, like Joy, have family lives that aren't horrible, but have some difficulties. It was nice that Joy made friends right away, and that she got along with many of the children in the building, as well as the adults! Don't we all need neighbors who make us snickerdoodles? The dog walking business had a lot of very good, realistic details, and the Hideout was a great place that the children used responsibly, even if the powers that be had, again, realistic concerns about. The best part was that Joy was able to look outside herself and be concerned for the other person leaving messages about struggling. Another good book from the author of From the Desk of Zoe Washington. Weaknesses: I've never lived or worked anywhere with secret or unused rooms, so I am always suspicious of ones in books. Young readers won't share my skepticism and will just want a Hideout of their own. What I really think: I'm definitely purchasing, since this is an easy to get into story that has a lot of universal appeal to it. It would be great to see books like this with kids who live in suburban apartment buildings and are interested in science and math related fields. While it's great to see kids with passions and interests, I wish that these were in areas that might lead to jobs, rather than usually being in sports, entertainment, or cooking.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sacha

    Thanks to NetGalley and Katherine Tegen books for this arc, which I received in exchange for an honest review. Here it is: 4 stars Joy, the m.c. of this charming middle grade novel, is experiencing a great deal of change when readers meet her. She has just arrived at her new apartment with her family: mom, dad, and younger sister Malia. As a result of dad's relatively recent layoff, they have moved to this much smaller dwelling from their single family home across town. Joy laments not only the Thanks to NetGalley and Katherine Tegen books for this arc, which I received in exchange for an honest review. Here it is: 4 stars Joy, the m.c. of this charming middle grade novel, is experiencing a great deal of change when readers meet her. She has just arrived at her new apartment with her family: mom, dad, and younger sister Malia. As a result of dad's relatively recent layoff, they have moved to this much smaller dwelling from their single family home across town. Joy laments not only the move and the loss of the house but a simpler time in general...when her parents fought less, she had her own room, she went to a different school, and she still got to work toward her dreams in piano lessons. The whole family seems understandably stressed, but Joy takes on so much for such a young character. Though Joy experiences a lot of loss and hardship at the start of the novel, she navigates through more of that from a better position: one with friends. It is heartwarming and useful to watch Joy make new friends, develop responsibility, make mistakes and learn how to recover from this irritating part of life, and problem solve. There is a lot of didactic content here, but it never feels that way; while readers of all ages can learn from Joy and her experiences and choices, the novel never reads as instructional or punitive. Joy and her friends are well devised characters, reflecting their ages and experiences authentically, and they all seem to be encountering and grappling with a variety of life circumstances. I will absolutely be recommending this novel to my students and to friends and family, especially those with age appropriate readers nearby. The characters are engaging, and the depictions of challenging financial circumstances, personal sacrifices, and family strife are all on point. There is a subplot that I'll keep quiet to avoid spoilers, but it reflects one of my worst fears, so I found myself getting distracted by that. I expect that I'll be tipping off my students - and other adults who plan to share this with kids - about what that is and how it ends. It's totally age appropriate: just a lot for me. Personal caveat aside, this is a winner and should be in the to-read queue for middle grade audiences.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Carli

    Thanks to Netgalley and Katherine Teigen Books for the advance Kindle copy of this book. All opinions are my own. • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 for this 9.14.21 release. When Joy’s family is forced to downsize to an apartment, it is a tough transition. She has to go to a new school, make new friends, and figure out her new place at home. When a neighbor introduces her to The Hideout, a secret room in the apartment basement for middle and high school kids in the building. Just when things are looking up, Joy accide Thanks to Netgalley and Katherine Teigen Books for the advance Kindle copy of this book. All opinions are my own. • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 for this 9.14.21 release. When Joy’s family is forced to downsize to an apartment, it is a tough transition. She has to go to a new school, make new friends, and figure out her new place at home. When a neighbor introduces her to The Hideout, a secret room in the apartment basement for middle and high school kids in the building. Just when things are looking up, Joy accidentally reveals the Hideout to an adult, shutting it down. She was getting close to finding out who was writing her secret messages in there, and finds herself friendless again. How can she fix it? Great for readers in grades 4-7.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Toya (the reading chemist)

    A Soft Place to Land is a heartwarming, coming of age story that follows 12 year old Joy Taylor who one day dreams of becoming a film score composer like the amazing John Williams, but first, she needs to learn how to play the piano. ⁣ ⁣ Joy’s dreams come to a crashing halt when her dad is laid off leaving their family to move into an apartment and cut unnecessary spending, which includes her piano lessons. ⁣ ⁣ This was such a a sweet coming of age story that explored starting a new school, making n A Soft Place to Land is a heartwarming, coming of age story that follows 12 year old Joy Taylor who one day dreams of becoming a film score composer like the amazing John Williams, but first, she needs to learn how to play the piano. ⁣ ⁣ Joy’s dreams come to a crashing halt when her dad is laid off leaving their family to move into an apartment and cut unnecessary spending, which includes her piano lessons. ⁣ ⁣ This was such a a sweet coming of age story that explored starting a new school, making new friends, sibling rivalry, and how financial strain can burden families. ⁣ ⁣ I really loved the storyline surrounding The Hideout, which was a place that the kids in the apartment building could gather away from their families and just be. I think kids being able to have their own safe space to escape stressful situations is so important.⁣ Thank you to Harper Kids and The Shelf Stuff for providing a review copy. this did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Richie Partington

    Richie’s Picks: A SOFT PLACE TO LAND by Janae Marks, HarperCollins/Katherine Tegan, September 2021, 288p., ISBN: 978-0-06-287587-7 “There is a place Where I can go When I feel low When I feel blue” -- Lennon/McCartney “There’s a Place” (1963) “‘Well,’ I start. ‘My family and I moved here because we had to sell our house. My dad lost his job a few months ago, and they couldn’t afford the mortgage anymore. It was going to’--I pause to remember the word my parents used--’foreclose and the bank was going Richie’s Picks: A SOFT PLACE TO LAND by Janae Marks, HarperCollins/Katherine Tegan, September 2021, 288p., ISBN: 978-0-06-287587-7 “There is a place Where I can go When I feel low When I feel blue” -- Lennon/McCartney “There’s a Place” (1963) “‘Well,’ I start. ‘My family and I moved here because we had to sell our house. My dad lost his job a few months ago, and they couldn’t afford the mortgage anymore. It was going to’--I pause to remember the word my parents used--’foreclose and the bank was going to take it away from us. But before that happened, my parents put it up for sale and found a new family to buy it.’ I swallow, and there’s a big lump in my throat. I lived in that house for my entire life until today. It felt like a member of my family, that now we’ve lost. Saying goodbye to it this morning was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I blink a bunch of times so I won’t cry.” Twelve-year-old Joy Taylor has gone from her own bedroom in that single-family home to the bunk bed she now shares with her little sister Malia in a small apartment across town. She also has to give up piano lessons, putting a dent in her dream of growing up to become a film score composer. The new apartment gets smaller and smaller as her parents' financial and interpersonal difficulties lead to screaming matches and, eventually, to her father moving out. Fortunately, Joy is befriended by a new schoolmate, Nora. In addition to bringing Joy into an existing circle of peers--all of them living in that apartment building--Nora introduces Joy to the Hideout. A small, unmarked door on the floor of a cleaning supply closet leads to a long-forgotten room that serves as a secret clubhouse for kids in the building. Miserable about the tension between her parents, Joy readily slips into the habit of deceiving Mom and Dad about her whereabouts, and joins her new friends underground. In the Hideout, Joy begins an exchange of communications--written on a wall--with an unknown person who is struggling like she is. Trying to figure out the identity of the other writer becomes a mystery for Joy to solve. Meanwhile, yearning to return to piano lessons, and wanting money to do so, Joy exhibits determination and resourcefulness by establishing an after-school dog-walking business with Nora. Of course, there are serious pitfalls relating to lying to parents. Then, it seems, everything goes wrong. Fortunately, the resulting bad times for Joy will eventually lead to a positive resolution. A SOFT PLACE TO LAND is a quick and engaging read. The 8-12 crowd will eat this one up. Richie Partington, MLIS Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com https://www.facebook.com/richiespicks/ https://twitter.com/richiespicks richiepartington[email protected]

  8. 5 out of 5

    Laura Miller

    I've been eagerly anticipating reading "A Soft Place To Land" because I so enjoyed "From the Desk of Zoe Washington" last year. Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins for the ARC to read and review. I highly recommend "A Soft Place to Land." It's so well written that I could have finished it in one sitting (if I had stayed up past my bedtime) and all of the characters felt real and relatable. Each of the kids we meet has their own backstory, which provides several points of connection for reader I've been eagerly anticipating reading "A Soft Place To Land" because I so enjoyed "From the Desk of Zoe Washington" last year. Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins for the ARC to read and review. I highly recommend "A Soft Place to Land." It's so well written that I could have finished it in one sitting (if I had stayed up past my bedtime) and all of the characters felt real and relatable. Each of the kids we meet has their own backstory, which provides several points of connection for readers. This book does what Janae Marks does best, which is to take a kid-friendly dive into hard issues that impact families everyday. Joy says, "Yeah, sometimes I feel like someone took a slingshot and shot me high into the air, and now I'm waving my arms and trying to find a soft place to land. You know?" ...That's a great way to describe what dealing with a big life change feels like for all of us. In A Soft Place To Land, Joy is grappling with the fact that her family has just sold their home and moved into an apartment due to her dad's job loss. This book hits home personally for me in a few ways. First of all, we had to sell a house and move in with my grandparents when I was a teenager, and that was a challenging change at a pivotal time for me. I could relate to some of Joy's feelings and experiences. I also work with a ministry now that provides resources for people in job transition, so there's another connection to my own life. The number of job losses and turnovers in the U.S. averaged 21.7 million annually, so think about how many kids are impacted by stories like Joy's each year!! And families have to move and make changes for lots of other reasons too. Kids need the message of this book. Ultimately, Joy learns that it's not a place that's the most important, but the people. She makes some new friends, learns some lessons, and gains some perspective on her family's situation. And I think readers of all ages will relate to her desire to find a "soft place to land."

  9. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    I love that A SOFT PLACE TO LAND stars a young, Black girl but is not about the Civil Rights Movement, slavery, or racism. It's about an ordinary kid with everyday problems. I'd love more books like this, the kind that feature Black characters and families and talk about the types of problems any one can face—friend drama, family issues, unexpected change, figuring out how to reach goals, etc. Books about racism are good for bringing attention to the issue, but I like this kind even better. Peop I love that A SOFT PLACE TO LAND stars a young, Black girl but is not about the Civil Rights Movement, slavery, or racism. It's about an ordinary kid with everyday problems. I'd love more books like this, the kind that feature Black characters and families and talk about the types of problems any one can face—friend drama, family issues, unexpected change, figuring out how to reach goals, etc. Books about racism are good for bringing attention to the issue, but I like this kind even better. People are people and we're all dealing with something. A SOFT PLACE TO LAND is a quick read, with enough going on to keep the story moving along. The characters are all warm and likable. Joy is a sympathetic heroine. Even though her story goal (trying to earn enough money for a piano or at least the piano lessons her family can no longer afford) isn't super compelling, I still wanted her to achieve it. Overall, I was a teensy bit disappointed in this story because it's just not very unique or memorable. I loved Marks' debut novel because it was more original. On the whole, I liked this one more than loved it. I do like Marks, though, and will definitely keep an eye out for her next book. If I could, I've give this book 3 1/2 stars. Since I can't, I'm rounding up.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Cassie Thomas

    Moving to a new place is always so terrifying and hard to find joy in the new, especially when it’s right down the road, smaller, and now forcing you to share with your sister. Joy’s life has been turned upside down in such a quick amount of time. Her dad lost his job and they had to sell their home and quick before it forecloses. The home she had been in her whole life. So now a part of her feels empty; but she makes a point to fill that space with music. Her dream - making music for movies. Sh Moving to a new place is always so terrifying and hard to find joy in the new, especially when it’s right down the road, smaller, and now forcing you to share with your sister. Joy’s life has been turned upside down in such a quick amount of time. Her dad lost his job and they had to sell their home and quick before it forecloses. The home she had been in her whole life. So now a part of her feels empty; but she makes a point to fill that space with music. Her dream - making music for movies. She meets Nora at their new apartment complex and you start to see a glimmer of hope for Joy. As Joy and Nora get closer, she also keeps hearing her parents fight more and more, mainly over money, Joy gets a wild idea to make money. AKA walk Ziggy for their neighbor. Disaster strikes. Friendships fall apart. Joy is back to square one and striking out in every direction. But, as Joy starts to fit pieces of her broken puzzle of a life back together, other pieces aren’t fitting like they used to. She learns how to pick up the pieces and put them together to make an acceptable, new picture. A home base.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    Excuse me, why haven't I heard any of you talking about this book yet? Janae Marks, the brilliant author of From the Desk of Zoe Washington, brings another wonderful middle grade novel about life, change, coming of age, etc. This book was so great! The audio was really well done. Small setup with no spoilers: Joy's family moved to an apartment building when her family can no longer afford their home after her father lost his job. She loses her piano lessons, and now has to share a room with her Excuse me, why haven't I heard any of you talking about this book yet? Janae Marks, the brilliant author of From the Desk of Zoe Washington, brings another wonderful middle grade novel about life, change, coming of age, etc. This book was so great! The audio was really well done. Small setup with no spoilers: Joy's family moved to an apartment building when her family can no longer afford their home after her father lost his job. She loses her piano lessons, and now has to share a room with her little sister. She meets Nora, who becomes a fast friend, and along with a group of kids in the building, Joy creates a new, soft place to land in this unfamiliar world.

  12. 4 out of 5

    JoyAnn

    This book will be like a comforting hug or warm blanket to many middle grade readers. So many kids have to deal with parents fighting, moving, financial hardship, or fighting with friends. Joy experiences and navigates all of those. And she does so with optimism, honesty, and self awareness. The characters and their reactions are largely believable and relatable. There are some moments of mystery and suspense as well.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tracie

    Twelve year old Joy, her sister, and her parents have to sell their home and move into a small apartment in another neighborhood. Joy's dad has lost his job and the family has to make sacrifices. Film scores and becoming a composer are what consoles her and makes her happy, but she has to stop her piano lessons. On the plus side, she makes a good friend in Nora and three others in her building and they let her in on a secret place. When she makes several mistakes, she uses her heart and mind to Twelve year old Joy, her sister, and her parents have to sell their home and move into a small apartment in another neighborhood. Joy's dad has lost his job and the family has to make sacrifices. Film scores and becoming a composer are what consoles her and makes her happy, but she has to stop her piano lessons. On the plus side, she makes a good friend in Nora and three others in her building and they let her in on a secret place. When she makes several mistakes, she uses her heart and mind to make things better and find a soft place to land for herself, her family, and friends. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

  14. 5 out of 5

    MaryLibrarianOH

    A new home, arguing parents, a mystery, and friendships that are tested. Strong plot and setting.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ms Threlkeld

    Sweet story about a girl struggling with family changes, new friendships and taking on more responsibilities. Not as compelling or strongly written as the author’s debut, From the Desk of Zoe Washington.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Cassie

    I haven't read anything by Janae Marks, but I am sure to do so from now on after reading this beautifully heartfelt contemporary. I've been on the hunt for more MG books about homelessness and/or parents who lose their jobs because so many of my students come from those situations, and I am thrilled that I've found a book that feels authentic and relatable to those above-mentioned topics. The main character, Joy Taylor, comes from a pretty privileged life until her father loses his job. Suddenly I haven't read anything by Janae Marks, but I am sure to do so from now on after reading this beautifully heartfelt contemporary. I've been on the hunt for more MG books about homelessness and/or parents who lose their jobs because so many of my students come from those situations, and I am thrilled that I've found a book that feels authentic and relatable to those above-mentioned topics. The main character, Joy Taylor, comes from a pretty privileged life until her father loses his job. Suddenly, she and her younger sister have to move to a new town, attend a new school (for Joy, at least), and unfortunately, live in very tight quarters in an apartment with a mother and father who suddenly can't do anything but argue. With Dad out of work, Joy loses the one thing that was a sure-fire way to get her closer toward the job of her dreams of working with scoring movies, her piano lessons. As her parents arguing gets more intense and the walls seem to close in around her, Joy finally finds solace and friendship with a girl in the same apartment, Nora. With Nora's new friendship comes a secret only shared with the young teens in the building: the location and purpose of the Hideout--a secret room in the basement of the building reserved for only the teens. It is a safe place free of judgment where any teen who lives in the building can go to unwind and have a moment to just...be. A Soft Place to Land gave me everything I have been looking for with a MG contemporary for my library and my student demographic. It's diverse, heartfelt, and organic, dealing with issues so many teens face but few authors choose to tackle such as: joblessness, strained familial relationships, forming friendships and losing friendships (even if temporary), first jobs, sibling struggles, and most importantly, young teens being strong advocates for themselves and their best interests. We need more books like this that teaches young readers that home isn't always a location but that it can be a person or group of people who accept us for who we really are. I look forward to putting this book on my shelves and in the hands of my excited readers.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tasha

    Joy has had to move with her family from their beloved house into an apartment, since her father lost his job. Other things have changed too, like sharing a room with her little sister and being able to hear her parents argue clearly through the thin walls. Joy also had to give up her piano lessons, since they can’t afford them any more. So her plans to be a composer for movies have been put on hold. She also has to start a new school, but luckily she meets a very friendly new neighbor who goes Joy has had to move with her family from their beloved house into an apartment, since her father lost his job. Other things have changed too, like sharing a room with her little sister and being able to hear her parents argue clearly through the thin walls. Joy also had to give up her piano lessons, since they can’t afford them any more. So her plans to be a composer for movies have been put on hold. She also has to start a new school, but luckily she meets a very friendly new neighbor who goes to her school too. Nora also shares the secret Hideout that all of the kids in the building use to escape their small apartments. It’s top secret and no adults even know the room exists. Joy and Nora also start their own dog walking business for residents of the apartment. But when disaster strikes, Joy may lose it all: the business, the hide out and all of her friends. The author of From the Desk of Zoe Washington returns with her second book. This novel explores socioeconomic layers from the point of view of a girl caught in the midst of difficult life changes that she has no control over. Written with a deep empathy for young people and the difficulties they face, the book also mixes in humor and a strong sense of larger community that keeps it from being overly dark. The book offers a couple of moments of mystery, where Joy must figure out what happened to one of the dogs and another where she has been exchanging messages with someone who may be in trouble. Throughout it is clear that even though some things may be outside of Joy’s control, she has agency to make some changes and choices. Joy is a great character, one who could have become sullen and shut down in the face of the situation, but instead makes new friends and finds a way forward. She is a character full of caring for others, always helping out her sister, trying to fix friendships, and in the end solving the mysteries and finding a solution for a hideout that works for the adults too. Friendship, families and finding your way are central in this middle grade novel.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lesley

    “Sometimes I feel like someone took a slingshot and shot me high into the air, and now I’m waving my arms and trying to find a soft place to land.” (96) Sixth grader Joy Taylor’s life is in upheaval. Her family moved from their house to a small apartment when her father lost his job. Now she can hear her parents arguing, and Joy feels she has to stay strong and support her younger sister. “No matter what I say to Malia, I know we’re far from okay.” (85) In her new building she makes friends—Nora, “Sometimes I feel like someone took a slingshot and shot me high into the air, and now I’m waving my arms and trying to find a soft place to land.” (96) Sixth grader Joy Taylor’s life is in upheaval. Her family moved from their house to a small apartment when her father lost his job. Now she can hear her parents arguing, and Joy feels she has to stay strong and support her younger sister. “No matter what I say to Malia, I know we’re far from okay.” (85) In her new building she makes friends—Nora, Miles, Elena, and Oliver, who let her in on their secret, the Hideout, a hidden room where they gather as a group or individually as a refuge from their families. The number one rule for the Hideout is “We can’t let adults find out about it.” (51) Joy and Nora have a common interest in movies—Nora scripting and filming them and Joy scoring them. They start a dog walking business together to raise money for their passions and are on their way to becoming close friends. But then Joy becomes obsessed with finding out who wrote a poem on the Hideout wall: “I’m tired of smiling When actually I’m falling apart I’m tired of hiding The pain that’s inside my heart.” (89) She knows she can help this person if only she could find out who is feeling like she is. Joy and Nora’s friendship deteriorates when Joy pushes Nora to help her discover the poet and then when she unwittingly beaks the “number one rule” of the Hideout. In addition she loses a dog she is walking. When trying to fix this disaster Joy finds a way to create community and win back her new friends and find them a new soft place to land. Janae Marks' new novel gives fourth through seventh graders some mystery, a little adventure, and a lot of family and friendship challenges.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Thebookedlibrarian

    Joy's life has totally gone haywire, she moved from her suburban home to a tiny apartment; she now shares a room with her adorable but annoying little sister; she can no longer afford piano lessons which she needs desperately if she plans on fulfilling her dream of becoming a musical composer; and most worrisomely her parents won't stop fighting which Joy believes will lead to their divorce. In Joy's precocious mind, life simply cannot get any worse, luckily things look up when she meets Nora an Joy's life has totally gone haywire, she moved from her suburban home to a tiny apartment; she now shares a room with her adorable but annoying little sister; she can no longer afford piano lessons which she needs desperately if she plans on fulfilling her dream of becoming a musical composer; and most worrisomely her parents won't stop fighting which Joy believes will lead to their divorce. In Joy's precocious mind, life simply cannot get any worse, luckily things look up when she meets Nora another kid in the building who introduces Joy not just to her friends but to a secret hiding spot where they all go to get away. It is at the secret spot that Joy finds an anonymous and disturbing note the wall, Joy desperately want to help this person but she has no idea who it is and then their correspondence stops. Joy makes it her mission to identify that individual but to do so she would have question her friends, could she be ruining the fragile friendships she already has??? A Soft Place to Land was absolutely delightful, although I would consider it more of middle grade fiction with mystery elements. Joy was lovable character who made her fair share of mistakes but was always eager and willing to fix them when required. As someone who grew up in an apartment building, this book was so familiar to me and reminded me of my childhood. When I was growing up there are very few books that captured the warmth and inclusiveness of growing up in a apartment building community, I am thrilled that this book captured that essence so beautifully. I rate it 4.25 stars.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Porshea DiMera

    Do you ever feel like a plastic bag/ Drifting through the wind, wanting to start again? What a universal lyric, right? A Soft Place to Land by Janae Marks, a middle grade book about twelve-year-old Joy Taylor going through a tumultuous life transition, brings similar energy in the mysterious verse that intrigues Joy through much of the book: “I’m tired of smiling when actually I’m falling apart/ I’m tired of hiding the pain that’s inside my heart.” Most of the story moves with Joy drifting like a Do you ever feel like a plastic bag/ Drifting through the wind, wanting to start again? What a universal lyric, right? A Soft Place to Land by Janae Marks, a middle grade book about twelve-year-old Joy Taylor going through a tumultuous life transition, brings similar energy in the mysterious verse that intrigues Joy through much of the book: “I’m tired of smiling when actually I’m falling apart/ I’m tired of hiding the pain that’s inside my heart.” Most of the story moves with Joy drifting like an untethered plastic bag. With her family having to downsize from a nice house in the suburbs with plenty of space that kept her family of four from bumping into each other, Joy is dismayed by the cramped apartment lifestyle her family is forced to adapt to after her father loses his job. Emphasizing the issues in being stuck in a smaller space together, her parents are locked into constant bickering that she can only drown out with her headphones on the top bunk the small room she now shares with her younger sister, Malia. Just when her frustrations with this arrangement reach the point where the earbuds and bit of comfort she can provide to Malia feels more draining than helpful, she makes friends with a longtime resident of the building and new schoolmate, Nora. Nora picks up on Joy’s need for privacy and shows her the secret hangout passed down from building kid to building kid over time. Read more here: https://blackgirlscreate.org/2021/08/...

  21. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Kidwell

    A Soft Place to Land by Janae Marks HarperCollins Children's Books Katherine Tegen Books Children's Fiction | Middle Grade | Mystery & Thrillers Pub Date 14 Sep 2021 I am reviewing a copy of A Soft Place to Land through HarperCollins Children’s Books/Katherine Tegen Books and Netgalley: After her Father looses his job Joy Taylor finds that she and her family must move out of the home she lived her entire life in, and they have to move into a small apartment where she has to share a bedroom with her A Soft Place to Land by Janae Marks HarperCollins Children's Books Katherine Tegen Books Children's Fiction | Middle Grade | Mystery & Thrillers Pub Date 14 Sep 2021 I am reviewing a copy of A Soft Place to Land through HarperCollins Children’s Books/Katherine Tegen Books and Netgalley: After her Father looses his job Joy Taylor finds that she and her family must move out of the home she lived her entire life in, and they have to move into a small apartment where she has to share a bedroom with her little sister. The apartment becomes a place for tense arguments between Mom and Dad. Hardest of all, Joy doesn’t have her music to escape through anymore. Without enough funds, her dreams of becoming a great pianist and one day, a film score composer have been put on hold. A new neighbor, who fast becomes a friends let ‘s Joy in on the complex’s best-kept secret: the Hideout, a cozy refuge that only the kids are aware of. And it’s in this little hideaway that Joy starts exchanging secret messages with another kid in the building who also seems to be struggling, until abruptly, they stop writing back. What if they’re in trouble? Joy I wants to find out who the mystery writer is fast, but between trying to raise funds for her music lessons, keeping on a brave face for her little sister, and worrying about her parents’ marriage, Joy isn’t sure how to keep her own head above water. I give A Soft Place to Land five out of five stars! Happy Reading!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alondra Lopez

    Thank you, Netgalley, for the opportunity to read an arc version of this book! A Soft Place to Land initially appealed to me because of the author, Janae Marks. When I read From the Desk of Zoe Washington, I loved the writer’s style, and I was excited to read more. I am also trying to read a lot of upcoming middle-grade fiction as I prepare to switch up my guided reading curriculum for next year. Overall, highly recommend this book for a middle-grade audience, but the content is a bit too young f Thank you, Netgalley, for the opportunity to read an arc version of this book! A Soft Place to Land initially appealed to me because of the author, Janae Marks. When I read From the Desk of Zoe Washington, I loved the writer’s style, and I was excited to read more. I am also trying to read a lot of upcoming middle-grade fiction as I prepare to switch up my guided reading curriculum for next year. Overall, highly recommend this book for a middle-grade audience, but the content is a bit too young for high schoolers. This book centers on Joy, who dreams of growing up and writing movie scores. She takes piano lessons and is very passionate about her dream, but things are changing. Her house was almost foreclosed on, and Joy’s family has moved from a house into an apartment. However, there are a lot of positives with this shift! Joy almost immediately begins to make friends, which keeps this book on an upbeat track, while still recognizing the struggles Joy sees in her parents fighting over money, and Joy and her sister, Malia, adjusting to a smaller space. Throughout, we see small sacrifices our characters have to make. I appreciated how real the parents feel--they struggle repeatedly and work on their communication and issues but persist in the name of their kids. I thought they were very well written without taking away from Joy’s story.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Stacy

    I received an ARC courtesy of Netgalley. If anyone enjoyed From the Desk of Zoe Washington, they will also enjoy A Soft Place to Land. Janae Marks excels at writing strong female middle school protagonists with big dreams. This was a fun read that is great for upper elementary or 6th graders. Joy’s father lost his job and consequently, Joy’s family had to sell their home and move into a much smaller apartment building. In addition to missing her old home, Joy now has to contend with a lot of thi I received an ARC courtesy of Netgalley. If anyone enjoyed From the Desk of Zoe Washington, they will also enjoy A Soft Place to Land. Janae Marks excels at writing strong female middle school protagonists with big dreams. This was a fun read that is great for upper elementary or 6th graders. Joy’s father lost his job and consequently, Joy’s family had to sell their home and move into a much smaller apartment building. In addition to missing her old home, Joy now has to contend with a lot of things. She’s a passionate musician but her parents can no longer afford a piano or piano lessons, she keeps overhearing her parents arguing about finances, and she’s starting over as a new kid at a new school without any friends. Thankfully, Joy is quickly befriended by a girl, Nora, in her building who turns out to be a classmate and her friendship circle welcomes Joy. Her new friends even show her the Hideout, a hidden and long-forgotten room in their apartment complex that acts as a secret clubhouse for all the kids. Joy soon starts exchanging messages to an anonymous kid in their building who also seems to be going through a rough patch, until they suddenly stop responding. Friendships fall apart when it’s discovered that secrets are kept from each other and Joy desperately tries to find a way to make things all right again for her family, neighbors, and her friends.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kris Dersch

    This was sweet and warm and while I tried very hard not to compare it to Zoe Washington that was hard not to do and it doesn't quite live up. This isn't a negative and I'm not going to slam this book because there's a coziness to it that is so hard to do and so important for kids in this world. And I'm not a middle grade kid so this really isn't for me it's for them. It's hard sometimes as an adult reader of middle grade to wonder if the plot feels a little flat because I as an adult forget how hi This was sweet and warm and while I tried very hard not to compare it to Zoe Washington that was hard not to do and it doesn't quite live up. This isn't a negative and I'm not going to slam this book because there's a coziness to it that is so hard to do and so important for kids in this world. And I'm not a middle grade kid so this really isn't for me it's for them. It's hard sometimes as an adult reader of middle grade to wonder if the plot feels a little flat because I as an adult forget how high the stakes feel when you're eleven...or if it just feels flat. This is one of those. It felt like, up until the last third when the stakes do get much higher, that everyone in this book was taking everything just a bit more seriously than was believable. But I do know things feel bigger when you're that age so I have to assume that's nothing negative about the book, just the reader. So I'll give it a solid 4 stars, still a Janae Marks fan, and what's not to love about cute dogs and this cover? One thing I do have to say, though...this is billed as a mystery and I never saw a mystery. If the mystery is who is doing the mysterious thing (no spoilers,) that's not big enough to be a mystery, if the mystery is where the lost thing is (no spoilers,) that's not enough of a main plot to be a mystery. I declare this not a mystery.

  25. 5 out of 5

    TheNextGenLibrarian

    A feel-good story about a young girl redefining what home means. 🐶 Joy Taylor has had a lot of change in her life recently: her home was foreclosed on and their family had to move into an apartment building, which means they can’t afford piano lessons for her anymore. Scoring movies is Joy’s dream and that can’t happen until she learns how to play piano. Joy has also had to change schools and her parents are fighting a lot. In order to earn some money so she can buy a piano of her own, Joy teams A feel-good story about a young girl redefining what home means. 🐶 Joy Taylor has had a lot of change in her life recently: her home was foreclosed on and their family had to move into an apartment building, which means they can’t afford piano lessons for her anymore. Scoring movies is Joy’s dream and that can’t happen until she learns how to play piano. Joy has also had to change schools and her parents are fighting a lot. In order to earn some money so she can buy a piano of her own, Joy teams up with Nora, her new neighbor, to start a dog walking business. It’s going well until Joy and Nora get in a fight and Joy loses one of the dogs. Nothing seems to be going right for her. Will she be able to find her own joy? 🐶 This coming-of-age middle grade book was beautiful and poignant. Marks does an amazing job of showing how hard it can be to be a pre-teen sometimes with her relatable characters and stories. This novel releases September 14. Thank you, Netgalley for the advanced readers copy.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    Young people experience true emotions, and pain, and deserve to feel that their feelings matter, and are acknowledged. The tender parts of this book truly had me reconnecting with my own emotions. Where do you feel safe, at peace, or where do you express your real raw emotions that aren’t easy for others to hear? What happens when that space is no longer available? How do you move forward and cope with change? Don’t underestimate the beauty of a story that makes you pause and reflect. If it’s ad Young people experience true emotions, and pain, and deserve to feel that their feelings matter, and are acknowledged. The tender parts of this book truly had me reconnecting with my own emotions. Where do you feel safe, at peace, or where do you express your real raw emotions that aren’t easy for others to hear? What happens when that space is no longer available? How do you move forward and cope with change? Don’t underestimate the beauty of a story that makes you pause and reflect. If it’s adult fiction or middle grade, to me it still deserves to be read with an open mind and heart to receive what it has to say back to you. The aspects of mystery keep the plot moving, adding just a hint of curiosity. However, it’s Joy as a character, her friendships, and as always the love felt in between the lines that makes me truly a fan of Janae Marks work. Listen to some of Joy’s favorite scores as she mentions them, remember what it was like to dream of the thing that gives you life. For Joy, it’s film scores, for her friend Nora, it’s filmmaking. When things start to look up, they all start to fall apart. (If that doesn’t hit home right now.) There are two things keeping Joy together - realizing another child in her apartment is having a hard time too, and making sure her friend Nora knows she values their friendship. Joy shares the vulnerable parts of her emotions, and this mysterious person does too through writing on the wall in the secret - kids only hiding place. Will Joy find out who's writing the messages? Will she and Nora stay friends through it all? This story brings me back to my childhood, terribly missing the home and town I grew up in. I was raised in a beautiful community, and Joy is navigating finding her own in A Soft Place to Land.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lisa McDonald

    Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC of A Soft Place to Land for Janae Marks. While I like From the Desk of Zoe Washington better, A Soft Place to Land was an enjoyable book. Joy Taylor recently moved from her childhood house into a small apartment where she has to share a room with her sister. Her father lost his job, her parents are fighting more regularly and she misses her house tremendously. Because of her father's job loss, they no longer have the money to have her continue p Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC of A Soft Place to Land for Janae Marks. While I like From the Desk of Zoe Washington better, A Soft Place to Land was an enjoyable book. Joy Taylor recently moved from her childhood house into a small apartment where she has to share a room with her sister. Her father lost his job, her parents are fighting more regularly and she misses her house tremendously. Because of her father's job loss, they no longer have the money to have her continue piano lessons which impacts her dream of becoming a film score composer. Luckily, she meets Nora, who lives in her building. Nora introduces Joy to other friends as well as The Hideout, a secret room in the building that no adults know about and the first rule is that no adults can ever be told about the space. In this space, Joy starts exchanging messages with an unknown kid in the building who seems in need of a friend. When the kid abruptly stops returning the messages, Joy becomes concerned. Many kids will relate to the characters in this book in many different ways--those with parents who fight, those with parents who have lost a job, those with friend troubles, those who live in apartments. I think many mg readers will enjoy this book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an early copy in return for an honest review. Joy's family is forced to downsize from their house to an apartment when her dad loses his job. It's a difficult transition for their family and her parents arguing doesn't help. Joy is navigating difficulties at home, having to give up piano lessons, and new friendships, but she is also able to see beyond herself and want to help others, which I really appreciated. At the end of the book I realized three With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an early copy in return for an honest review. Joy's family is forced to downsize from their house to an apartment when her dad loses his job. It's a difficult transition for their family and her parents arguing doesn't help. Joy is navigating difficulties at home, having to give up piano lessons, and new friendships, but she is also able to see beyond herself and want to help others, which I really appreciated. At the end of the book I realized three things... (1) I want a Hideout. (2) I would highly recommend putting together a playlist of film scores...it will take your reading to the next level! (3) A batch of snickerdoodles will also take reading up a notch!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    This book was so simplistic in its creation. The last book I read by this author was great, and I think I liked that this one had some good life lessons for middle-grade kids in it. Joy moves to an apartment complex with her family because her parents can no longer afford the house they were living in. She meets a group of friends all living in the same complex who introduce her to a hideout in the building that all the kids use to get away from their home lives. She even starts a dog walking bu This book was so simplistic in its creation. The last book I read by this author was great, and I think I liked that this one had some good life lessons for middle-grade kids in it. Joy moves to an apartment complex with her family because her parents can no longer afford the house they were living in. She meets a group of friends all living in the same complex who introduce her to a hideout in the building that all the kids use to get away from their home lives. She even starts a dog walking business with one of her new friends. However, when her parents start fighting more, things take a turn for the worse. I liked this book because Joy eventually learns that not all turbulence in relationships results in a crash and relationships are sometimes more important than careers or jobs.

  30. 5 out of 5

    B Pastore

    I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. While the book says it's geared towards ages 8-12 - as an adult I so totally enjoyed it! It certainly touched on many of the challenges in life - from moving to a new place to live, money, to family relations, jobs, friendship --- as I read the story my interest was kept and I was always wondering - what was going to happen next, how was Joy and those around her going to navigate life's situations that came their way. Beautifully written. I look forward to I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. While the book says it's geared towards ages 8-12 - as an adult I so totally enjoyed it! It certainly touched on many of the challenges in life - from moving to a new place to live, money, to family relations, jobs, friendship --- as I read the story my interest was kept and I was always wondering - what was going to happen next, how was Joy and those around her going to navigate life's situations that came their way. Beautifully written. I look forward to adding this book to the shelf of our Little Free Library located at the end of our driveway. I know that many of the youth that visit our LFL are going to so enjoy reading this book. Thank you :-)

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