“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.” – Mason Cooley
Well, since my last post, the world has kind of turned upside down. Many are finding themselves at home looking for things to do so why not… READ! I see this as a wonderful opportunity to connect with a great book! We may not be able to hug our friends, but we can always hug a good book!
Here is a list of my favorite new novels for your middle grade readers (grades 5-8) to get lost in. Perfect for reading aloud, reading together, or escaping quietly in a favorite chair.
Here in the Real World – Sara Pennypacker
This is a story for anyone who has ever felt left of center. It is a tale for all those that march to the beat of their own drum, often times to the dismay of friends/family. This book is filled with compassion, truth and a little magic. Centered around Ware, an awkward introvert who doesn’t “fit”, who doesn’t like sports, has no friends by choice, and has no desire to hang with the popular crowd. He prefers disappearing into his room or hanging out at his grandmother’s retirement center. When she falls and breaks her hip, his summer plans are ruined. He ends up finding refuge in an abandoned church lot, which he imagines is a castle. There, he befriends Jolene, who is using the space to grow papayas for extra money… and then the summer of imagination begins. I am a huge fan of Sara Pennypacker’s writing – so filled with gorgeous prose, quotable phrases and metaphors. Her book Pax is one of my all-time favorite read-alouds.
Chirp – Kate Messner
I was fortunate enough to meet Kate Messner and get an autographed ARC of this book at the NCTE in Baltimore this past November. Kate Messner is a master of presenting difficult material to middle-grade readers in an accessible, age-appropriate way. I love the gentle and appropriate way that she handles the topic of sexual harassment with respect for her readers. There is also a mystery to solve, insects to eat, and new friendships, as well as an important message about how to deal with inappropriate contact. The mystery centers around Mia, who used to be a gymnast, until the “accident”. Now she doesn’t even want to think about gymnastics and instead is focusing on helping at her grandmother’s grasshopper farm. Strange things are happening that could ruin her grandmother’s business and Mia is determined to figure out why. Why a grasshopper farm, you ask? Male grasshoppers chirp, female grasshoppers are silent. Fantastic middle grade novel – appropriate for grade 5 and up.
Me and Bansky – Tanya Lloyd Kyi
Dominica and her best friends, Holden and Saanvi, are determined to find out who is hacking into the security cameras in their private school and posting embarrassing images of them online. They begin an art-based student campaign against cameras in the classroom. Love that this book was set in Vancouver and weaves art into the story, along with themes of friendship and issues of privacy and security. Great characters and a cute little romance in the mix as well.
Birdie and Me – J.M.M. Nuanez
After their mother dies, Jack and her gender creative brother Birdie are sent to live with their uncles; but Uncle Carl isn’t reliable, and Uncle Patrick doesn’t like Birdie’s purple jacket, skirts, and rainbow leggings. All Jack wants is somewhere they can both live as themselves. While this book wasn’t weepy, it is an endearing story with charming characters and a beautiful sibling relationship. Hope, family love, and acceptance. It’s a little longer (304 pages) but hey, time we got!
When You Trap a Tiger – Tae Keller
For the reader who enjoys a little magical realism – this book beautifully tackles grief, loss, family dynamics and cultural heritage. What I loved was the seamless way the book combines relate-able contemporary events with traditional Korean folk stories and family traditions. Te main character, Lily, is spending the summer before grade 7 with her sister and mother visiting her very sick grandmother. But the summer takes an interesting turn when a magical tiger straight out of her favorite Korean folk tale appears and offers Lily a deal to return a stolen item in exchange for her grandmother’s health. Deals with tigers, as it turns out, are not as simple as they seem!
Prairie Lotus – Linda Sue Park
Linda Sue Park admits freely that this story was inspired by the Little House books. I LOVED Little House books as a child so was excited and curious to see how she would interpret them. With a similar setting, readers relive a pioneer story from the viewpoint of a half-Chinese, half-white 14 year old girl, Hanna. Hanna is resourceful, courageous, smart, and resilient, and throughout the story learns to find the courage to stand up against racism, and stand up for her own goals and dreams. Loved the author’s notes at the end to learn how the story was born from her childhood wondering if she and Laura Ingalls could have been friends. A great choice for fans of historical fiction.
Bloom – Kenneth Oppel
For those looking for a little sci-fi, dystopian thriller – check out the first book in Kenneth Oppel’s new trilogy. The story, set on Salt Spring Island, BC, is fast paced, taking place over a two week period. After an unusual heavy rain, indestructible black plants begin growing at an unbelievably rapid rate. People begin to have strong allergic reactions to the strange new pollen in the air except for three teenagers. Anaya, Petra, and Seth each have something a bit different about them aside from their immunity to the toxic pollen and these differences bring them together, at the same time setting them apart from the rest of the world. Weird science, evil plants, and non-stop action – what could be better? (and, squee! – I have an autographed copy!)
Music for Tigers – Michelle Kadarusman
Beautiful coming of age story woven with themes of animals, protecting the environment, musical passions, friendships, autism, anxiety, fitting in, family relationships. Basically, there is something for everyone to identify and connect with! Louisa, a violin playing teen from Toronto, is sent to the lush Tasmania rainforest in Australia to spend the summer with her uncle who runs a wildlife reserve. Beautifully written, engaging characters, this gentle story follows a girl demonstrating unexpected heroism as she moves out of her comfort zone. Great for animal lovers and budding musicians and activists. (Please note – this book is not available until the end of April)
The List of Things that Will Not Change – Rebecca Stead
Wow.. This book is such a beautiful story of love, life, and family. When Bea’s parents tell her they have decided to divorce, they give her a green notebook with a green pen to record those things that will not change in her life. On the first page, they have recorded the first thing that will not change: they both love her and always will. This book touches on a few current, sensitive topics including divorce, same-sex marriage, blended families and, most important, childhood anxiety. What I love about this book is how the author so captures Bea’s anxious voice trying to navigate all the changes she is experiencing. This book beautifully captures both the pain and joy of growing up.
Go With the Flow – Lily Williams and Karen Scheemeann
A wonderful, beautiful, important, relevant graphic novel which is centered around menstruation. It is both approachable and grounded and a story that illustrates beautifully what its like to be a teenage girl in a way that is relate-able, inclusive and diverse. Amazing characters who are such wonderful, healthy examples of female friendships – modelling communication, forgiveness and compassion. SUCH a great book!
la guerre de Catherine – Julia Billet
I was not able to read this book as it was in French but it is getting a lot of attention so wanted to include it for my French immersion teacher friends! Based on a true story, this graphic novel set during World War II in France the story recounts the journey of a Jewish girl moved from location when Germans occupy Paris. To protect them, the teachers of her progressive school help students gain new identities. Catherine’s photography passion provides her a unique perspective of World War II . Great read for WWII historical fiction fans. Also available in English: Catherine’s War
The Runaway Princess – Johan Troilanowski
Adorable characters. Quirky. Adventurous. Hilarious. Endearing. I was instantly drawn in by Johan Troianowski’s art style. And the best part about this book is that it’s completely interactive. The reader is asked to shake the book three times before turning the page to help Robin escape a wolf, use their finger to help the characters find their way through a maze, search for a missing character on a crowded page, and so much more. LOVE this one!
Cub – Cynthia L. Copeland
This graphic novel memoir, set in the 1970’s, is complete with bullies, bell bottoms, and possibilities! Cindy is in grade seven and dealing with seventh grade issues including boys, hair, fashion and particularly a group of “mean girls”. A teacher suggests she might one day become a writer and connects her with a local female newspaper reporter who becomes her mentor. This is based on the author’s life and
Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed – Laurie Halse Anderson
“A modern retelling of a young Wonder Woman coming into her powers and her legacy.” So this book really suprised me. I am not a huge DC comic/Wonder Woman fan but I found it to be such an interesting take on the Wonder Woman origin myth that incorporates many contemporary issues including the refugee crisis, humanitarian issues, homelessness, human trafficking, etc. Beautiful illustrations.
Stay safe and healthy, everyone! And remember, you may not be able to hug your neighbour right now, but you can always hug a book!