Michael’s Top 5 Books of 2016!

Genres: Children's Books

2016 was a fun year in books for me. I had a great year reading. I managed to read over 2 million words!

My mom asked me to pick a few of my favorite books and give my short thoughts. Here are my favorite books of 2016. 

The Jumping Tree by Rene Saldaña Jr.

These lively stories follow Rey Castaneda from sixth through eighth grade in Nuevo Penitas, Texas. One side of Rey’s family lives nearby in Mexico, the other half in Texas, and Rey fits in on both sides of the border. In Nuevo Penitas, he enjoys fooling around with his pals in the barrio; at school, he’s one of the “A list” kids.

As Rey begins to cross the border from childhood into manhood, he turns from jokes and games to sense the meaning of work, love, poverty, and grief, and what it means to be a proud Chicano-moments that sometimes propel him to show feelings un hombre should never express. It’s a new territory where Rey longs to follow the example his hardworking, loving father has set for him.

The Jumping Tree is a favorite book for me. I liked how I could relate to the family life in South Texas. It was a funny and sad book.  It was so cool for me to be able to talk to Rene Saldaña right after I read the book. That is something I will never forget.


The Smoking Mirror by David Bowles

Carol and Johnny Garza are 12-year-old twins whose lives in a small Texas town are forever changed by their mother’s unexplained disappearance. Shipped off to relatives in Mexico by their grieving father, the twins soon learn that their mother is a nagual, a shapeshifter, and that they have inherited her powers. In order to rescue her, they will have to descend into the Aztec underworld and face the dangers that await them.

 This is the best book I’ve ever read! I like the Mexican history, folklore and mythology throughout the book. The book also brings out sympathy, fear, joy and sadness in you, which is a thing not a lot of authors can do. The writing is very descriptive. Johnny is my personal favorite character for his humor and bold spirit. I also like Carol for her intelligence, intuition and leadership. Each chapter alternates between Carol and Johnny which confused me a little, but in the end I got used to it.

Link to Online Review


Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

The war against Voldemort is not going well; even the Muggles have been affected. Dumbledore is absent from Hogwarts for long stretches of time, and the Order of the Phoenix has already suffered losses.

And yet . . . as with all wars, life goes on. Sixth-year students learn to Apparate. Teenagers flirt and fight and fall in love. Harry receives some extraordinary help in Potions from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince. And with Dumbledore’s guidance, he seeks out the full, complex story of the boy who became Lord Voldemort — and thus finds what may be his only vulnerability.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Readers beware. The brilliant, breathtaking conclusion to J.K. Rowling’s spellbinding series is not for the faint of heart–such revelations, battles, and betrayals await in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that no fan will make it to the end unscathed. Luckily, Rowling has prepped loyal readers for the end of her series by doling out increasingly dark and dangerous tales of magic and mystery, shot through with lessons about honor and contempt, love and loss, and right and wrong. Fear not, you will find no spoilers in our review–to tell the plot would ruin the journey, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is an odyssey the likes of which Rowling’s fans have not yet seen, and are not likely to forget. But we would be remiss if we did not offer one small suggestion before you embark on your final adventure with Harry–bring plenty of tissues.

The heart of Book 7 is a hero’s mission–not just in Harry’s quest for the Horcruxes, but in his journey from boy to man–and Harry faces more danger than that found in all six books combined, from the direct threat of the Death Eaters and you-know-who, to the subtle perils of losing faith in himself. Attentive readers would do well to remember Dumbledore’s warning about making the choice between “what is right and what is easy,” and know that Rowling applies the same difficult principle to the conclusion of her series. While fans will find the answers to hotly speculated questions about Dumbledore, Snape, and you-know-who, it is a testament to Rowling’s skill as a storyteller that even the most astute and careful reader will be taken by surprise.

The Harry Potter series is a journey I will never forget. The magic that lives between the pages of this story will live in me forever.


Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

Lost and alone in a forbidden forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica.

Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each, in turn, become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. And ultimately, pulled by the invisible thread of destiny, their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo.

Richly imagined and masterfully crafted, this impassioned, uplifting, and virtuosic tour de force will resound in your heart long after the last note has been struck.


I also was able to meet so many awesome authors at the First Annual Border Book Bash!  I am going to read all their books before I see them again next year!

Thank you for reading my reviews.


  1. Rene Saldana, Jr. says

    I’ve met Michael a few times over the years, from when he was a little kid to more recently at the book festival his mom put together in south Texas (which is an awesome event and as long as I’m welcome, and I can travel down, I am SO there!). This time was special meeting him again: he’s older, he loves books (he better: his mom’s one of the best librarians and reader ever!), and he doesn’t shy away from talking books, or talking to adults about books (which will be a gift to his ELAR teachers and lit professors), so, when I first arrived in Edinburg late evening (9ish?) gathered in the area where they serve breakfast was a bunch of writers and librarians, and among the bunch was Michael, who’d set himself apart somewhat, off to a corner, reading none other than The Jumping Tree. He was close to finishing when I said hello to him. “Tell me what you think when you’re done,” I might have added. I’ve met plenty of readers over the years who are excited to talk to a writer of a book they’ve read, and that’s cool. Their teachers always say it’s a great thing for them to meet the author. I wonder, do these readers know how awesome it is to meet our readers! And, do they know we’re just as anxious to meet them as they us? And cooler yet when we get some good one-on-one time. And with readers (I mean, the engaged ones, right, who don’t need to be coerced into the act of reading but do it for the goosebumps, for the edge-of-their-seats feeling, for the laughter, the near-tears, etc.), man, what a moment for a writer because we get to really and truly discuss our work and their work in reading. Michael, you call my book one of your faves for the year. You’re one of my favorite readers in the world over a lifetime!

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