Monday, July 09, 2018

MMGM- The Game Masters of Garden Place

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Always in the Middle and #IMWAYR day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

Markell, Denis. The Game Masters of Garden Place
July 17th 2018 by Delacorte
E ARC from

Ralph and his friends Jojo, Persphone, Cammi, and Noel have been playing Reign of Dragons, a Role Playing Game (RPG) since they were ten, with Ralph's babysitter, Declan as the game masters. The had lots of good campaigns, but as they get into middle school, interest starts to wane. Jojo is heavily into gymnastics, and her practices and meets make the Saturday gaming sessions difficult. Persephone and Cammi (who is exploring his identity) are interested in theater and costuming. Noel is more interested in some of the current video games that classmates are playing. Only Ralph remains really excited about RoD, and he is the only one playing on going to the RoD Con when it comes to NYC. When Declan decides to go back to school, the group tries to rotate who is in charge of the game, but each one puts their own spin on the action, which doesn't make everyone happy. Ralph thinks it odd when he wins dice by registering for the Con, and when he uses them to start the last game the group has scheduled, the alter egos of all the participants come to life! All five characters show up and are surprised that the children know all of the details of the quest. Ralph is still determined to finish the campaign and find all of the serpents that the script calls for, but now he must do it while keeping his friends invested in the game and keeping the characters from eviscerating innocent bystanders.  Will the children be able to finish their campaign, get their alter egos safely back to their own world, and solve a mystery involving the founder of RoD?
Strengths: Dungeons and Dragons seems to be having a major resurgence-- there was an article on it in the Columbus Dispatch, and I noticed that my public library is offering a course on it this summer. Not only that, but Picky Reader is in a group at college. She's an elf. So, this is a timely book. What I liked best, though, was the depiction of the friendships. Losing friends to different pursuits is such a common middle school experience, and it's just not in as many books as it should be. Centering the book on Ralph, who is steadfast to his fandom, and showing how the other friends are branching off was a great way to go. The parents were handled well-- they are around, cognizant of their children's movements, but willing to give them enough independence to get into a little trouble. There is a lot of humor, enough action to keep things interesting, and a bit of a twist at the end. A great sophomore middle grade novel from the author of Click Here to Start.
Weaknesses: Since I am not a fan of playing games of any manner or description, I found the scenarios a bit slow. This will NOT be the case for gamers, who will eat up the details.
What I really think: This is very similar to Wizards of the Game (2003) by David Lubar, but it is certainly time for another book like this! Definitely purchasing. Who knows? It might introduce a reader to a lifelong pastime! John David Anderson's The Dungeoneers is the only other D&D type book that I can think of. Anyone else remember Tom Hanks in Mazes and Monsters (1982)?
Ms. Yingling


  1. This book has such a unique premise! I'll have to try it. Thanks so much for the recommendation!

  2. This sounds like a book some kids will be really into. I don't have any books about games like this one so I'll have to check it out.

  3. I'm glad to hear about The Game Masters of Garden Place. A couple of my MG guys might really enjoy this one. My hubby was recently invited to join a D&D gamers group -- mostly guys who played back in the 80s. :) They had a lot of fun, so I'm glad he's getting to participate!

  4. I did enjoy CLICK HERE TO START so I will be giving this one a go. Thanks for this and all of your reviews the past week. My TBR list is overflowing with upcoming reading.

  5. I'm not a gamer and never have been, so I think this wouldn't be of much interest to me, but I have some young friends who might like this one. Thanks for the review.

  6. No kidding that Dungeons and Dragons has made a comeback. My sons, now in their middle thirties, with children of their own, get together every other week with friends for ongoing D & D play. They were also big fans of those role play books (I think it was the fighting fantasy series) Do you remember those?

  7. I vaguely remember the game of Dungeons and Dragons. This is sure to have teen appeal, especially for gamers. Excellent review. Like that you have more strengths than weaknesses for the book.

  8. I had students that enjoyed Click Here to Start by Markell so I might pick this one up. Some of my students were interested in the role playing in John David Anderson's Posted as well (and Insert Coin to Continue) so these books certainly seem to reach some readers. Thanks for the post!

  9. You had me at Persephone. I have not really understood Dungeons and Dragons all that much - seems mighty complicated to me. :)

  10. I think this is a book that my students (and I!) will enjoy--video games are a favorite!

    Hope you had a good reading week :)