Category Archives: Historical Fiction

GEARPICKS Holiday Book Gifting 2020 Part 2 – Book Gifting for Tweens

Last week, I posted PART 1 of my Holiday Book Gifting ideas, focusing on books for your younger readers. You can read the post HERE. This week, I am excited to share my picks for gifting those tweens in your life! I’ve tried to include books for all interests and hoping one will be a perfect match for that reader in your family!

For the Sci-Fi Fan

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Bloom by Kenneth Oppel

Kids ages ten and up will get sucked into this unputdownable science-fiction novel about a strange rain that causes alien plants to sprout. The plants climb up buildings, destroy crops, and devour animals and people. Only three teens are immune to the mysterious plants, and nobody knows why. This action-packed book is the first in an exciting new series that will keep kids up all night.

For Your Imaginative Animal Lover 

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The Elephant’s Girl by Celesta Rimington

Kids that like animal stories will likely get lost in this magical book. Lexington can speak telepathically to elephants, and they can speak to her. When the elephant Nyah sends her a mysterious message, Lex gets caught up in a spooky and magical adventure that may provide answers about her past.

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Skunk and Badger Amy Timberlake

Skunk and Badger join a list of literary “odd couples” in children’s literature, much like Frog and Toad or Elephant and Piggie. If you’re looking for an early middle-grade book to read with the kids, this is a great one. Reminiscent of the 100 Acre Wood and Wind in the Willows, and filled with quirky, memorable animal characters, this friendship story has both humour and thoughtful themes. Jon Klassen’s illustrations add to the fun.

For your Budding Environmentalist

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Music for Tigers Michelle Kadarusman

A coming-of-age story set in the dense rainforest of Tasmania. This book explores so many different themes – family, legacy, friendship, animal extinction, autism, and environmental conservation. Louisa is sent to spend some time at her Uncle Ruff’s bush camp in Tasmania when she would much rather practicing her violin for her big audition. While at the camp she meets her great-grandmother, through her journals, a new friend in Colin, and a once thought extinct Tasmanian tiger named Ellie. Ah-Mazing! Love this book and love that it incorporates Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons.

For your Historical Fiction Fan

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The Blackbird Girls – Anne Blankman

This is a moving story about two girls whose friendship develops during the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Told in alternating perspectives and different periods in history, this story shows that hatred, intolerance, and oppression are no match to the power of friendship. Fascinating and innovative.

Folklore and Fairy Tale Fans

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When You Trap A Tiger – Tae Keller

Know someone that likes family legends, folklore, and fairy tales? If so, you’ll definitely want to add this middle grade novel to your shopping list. Filled with magical realism, a magical tiger, Korean folklore, challenges and deals and family ties, this novel is about finding the courage to speak up.

Humour

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Wink – Rob Harrell

Ross Maloy just wants to be a normal seventh grader but with his recent diagnosis of a rare eye cancer, blending in is not an option. Based on author Rob Harrell’s real life experience, this book is packed with comic panels and incredibly personal and poignant moments. It is an unforgettable, heartbreaking, hilarious, and uplifting story of survival and finding the music, magic, and laughter in life’s weirdness.

For Fans of Realistic Fiction

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The List of Things That Will Not Change – Rebecca Stead

Rebecca Stead is known for her realistic middle grade stories and her latest book is amazing. Bea is thrilled that her Dad is going to marry his boyfriend and that she’ll finally get a sister. As the wedding draws closer, Bea learns that nothing is simple when you’re forming a new family.

For Your Adventurer

The Last Kids on Earth: June's Wild Flight by Max Brallier

The Last Kids on Earth: June’s Wild Flight – Max Brallier

It’s not hard to see why The Last Kids on Earth series is such a popular series. These action-packed books are full of monsters and adventure with black and white illustrations splashed across every page. The series has even been adapted into a Netflix show. This book, featuring June, is set between the events of The Midnight Blade and the upcoming sixth book in the series.

Fans of Survival Stories

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Red Fox Road – Frances Greenslade

A thirteen-year-old girl on a family vacation becomes stranded alone in the wilderness when the family’s GPS leads them astray. A compelling survival story for ages 10 to 14, for fans of Hatchet and The Skeleton Tree. Exquisite sensory detail!

For Graphic Novel Fans

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Doodleville – Chad Sell

Calling all artists! This magical graphic novel is for readers with a big imagination and a love of art from the creator of Cardboard Kingdom. It’s a funny, imaginative world called Doodleville created inside main character Drew’s sketchbook. The only problem is that her doodles don’t stay in the sketchbook, including a not-so-friendly monster named Levi. Full of friendship, humor, and fun, this graphic novel will be a big hit!

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Nat Enough – Maria Scrivan

Delightful graphic novel about navigating friendships in middle grades – making friends and losing them.
This is a great graphic novel for middle grade readers. It not only teaches kids what real friendship looks like, but it also teaches them to focus on who they are instead of who they aren’t. This is the first book in the Nat Enough series, but the second book in this series has just been releasedForget Me Nat

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When Stars Are Scattered – Victoria Jamison

Based on the real-life experiences of Omar Mohamed, this heartbreaking yet hopeful graphic novel gives readers insight into the life of a refugee. When Omar gets the opportunity to go to school, he is excited. He knows an education could enable him and his younger brother to get out of the refugee camp where they’ve spent most of their lives. But going to school also means leaving his brother behind to fend for himself every day. This book is a perfect example of how graphic novels can introduce important and timely issues that will resonate with readers. EXCELLENT!

For Hockey Fans

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Hockey Super Six on Thin Ice – Kevin Sylvester

Lots to love about this series! It’s not only about a group of six friends who love to play hockey, but also an evil genius, some mutant squids who form an opposing team, and a magical blue light that gives everyone some unexpected skills on the ice. It’s funny, entertaining, and also focuses on the importance of teamwork.

Thanks for stopping by! I do hope you found 1 or 2 titles that you can gift to the tween in your life.

Wishing you and your family a very happy holiday and well deserved break. Enjoy this time to recharge, reflect, and read-read-read!!!

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Filed under 2020 Releases, Animals, Art, Diversity, Fairy Tales, Friendship, Historical Fiction, Holiday books, Literature Circles, Middle Grade Novels, Novels, Refugee, Sci-Fi, social justice

Favorite Middle Grade Novels of 2020 (so far!) for summer reading!

It’s August!  Eeeek!  Only one more month to catch up on our READING, so thought I’d post a list of favorite middle grade novels.   (You can read last summer’s post HERE)

Whether you know a child,  tween, or teen who might be looking for some great summer reading, or you are on the look-out for a new book for next year’s read-aloud, there is something here for everyone.

What trends have I noticed in MG novels this year?:  stories written from alternating points of view, relatable characters who stand up for injustices, and a good dose of spook!  Some very powerful books – well worth checking out!  Happy summer reading, everyone!

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A Field Guide to Getting Lost – Joy McCullough

So much to love about this book about Sutton, a girl with a passion for science and  Louis, a boy obsessed with robots who dreams of writing fantasy novels.  While the two have nothing in common, they must figure out how to get along when their parents start dating.  Told in alternating perspectives of Sutton and Luis, this book is so engaging and has such authentic characters and voice – readers will make SO many connections!  Loved it so much!

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Efren Divided – Enesto Cisneros

Raw, gripping and powerful.  Seventh-grader Efrén Nava’s world turns upside down when his mother, his Ama, his Superwoman, is suddenly deported.   Efren is left to dig deep to find courage as he struggles to look after his young brother and sister and find a way to get his Ama home.  An important book that will spark discussion about immigration policies and inequality.  Heart-breaking and heart-warming, I needed Kleenex for this one.

 

Rick – Alex Gino

Eleven year old Rick struggles with a toxic friendship and his sexual identity is as he navigates middle school feeling “different”.  Sequel to the popular book GEORGE by the same author.  This is an excellent introduction for younger tweens to the LGBTQIAP+ community, nonbinary pronouns and sexual identity.

The Blackbird Girls – Anne Blankman

Gripping historical fiction, told in two voices, tells the story of two young girls fleeing the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl.  Related story told through flashbacks of one of the girls fleeing the German invasion of Kiev during WWII.   Despite the horrible events both girls are experiencing, hope and the power of kindness shine through this book.  The details of daily life in Ukraine are fascinating.  If you enjoyed the HBO series “Chernobyl”, you will enjoy this book!

A Place at the Table – Saadia Faruqi

Told in alternating points of view, sixth graders Sara, a Pakistani American, and Elizabeth, a white, Jewish girl are each in need of a friend.  Both girls are struggling with complicated home lives and a meet in a cooking class.  Mix in a cooking contest, middle school friendships, and a much-needed lesson on empathy, this book really surprised me.  Beautifully written and rich with important themes to discuss including race, religion and immigration, friendship, family, and how to make choices to be the type of person you want to be.

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From the Desk of Zoe Washington – Janae Marks

“Just Mercy” for kids!  Zoe Washington just turned twelve and has big plans to enter a kids baking show.  Things take a turn when she receives a letter from her biological father, whom she has never met and discovers he is in prison for a crime he says he did not commit.  She writes him back and so begins a summer filled with baking, friendship, and some important lessons about the criminal justice system that is accessible and easy for a tween to understand.   Another great surprise book for me.

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We Dream of Space – Erin Entrada Kelly

I can still remember vividly watching the Challenger tragedy unfold on TV.   Set in Jan, 1986 in the days leading up to the Challenger tragedy, this book is written from the perspective of Bird, Cash, and Finch – three different siblings living in a dysfunctional family.  Erin Entrada Kelly has captured the confusion and chaos of adolescence in a heartbreaking,  beautiful way.

Dress Coded – Carrie Firestone

A modern “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret?”, this powerful debut novel is told through narration, podcast episodes, and various letters.  So many themes to explore here, including girl-power, friendship, and standing up for what you believe in.  Molly, an eighth grader, starts a podcast to protest the unfair dress code enforcement at her middle school.  So relevant without being forced or fake.  EXCELLENT!

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Me and Banksy – Tanya Lloyd Kyi

Entertaining and thought provoking story that tackles the important issues of cyber bullying and cyber security in schools and includes themes of art and civic debates.  Dominica and her friends are targeted by a cyber bully, who is posting embarrassing images of them online.  They stage a protest to show how damaging the security cameras are to the students and teachers.  I loved the funny and engaging banter between the characters. This would be a great book to prompt a discussion with tweens about privacy issues in our digital world.  

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The One and Only Bob – Katherine Applegate

The much anticipated sequel to The One and Only Ivan did not disappoint.  In the story, we follow Bob after a tornado separates him from Julia while visiting his friends Ruby and Ivan. The story is action-packed, involves a diverse array of animals, and touches on the important topic of forgiveness.  You will be laughing in one moment and reaching for your Kleenex the next.  Bob’s voice is delightful and I love Katherine Applegate’s brilliant use of language, rich with metaphors and similes:  “When he opens the fridge, the light spills out like maple syrup on a hot pancake.” So many quotes worth savoring.  LOVE!

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Music for Tigers – Michelle Kadarusman

Beautifully written coming of age story set in Tasmania.  Louisa would rather spend the summer at home in Toronto playing her violin but instead is shipped off to spend the summer with her Uncle.  This book transports the reader to the lush Tasmanian rainforest of Australia as Louisa discovers a diary of her great grandmother.  In it, she learns a rich-family history to conserve the Tasmanian tigers.

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Stand Up, Yumi Chung! – Jessica Kim

This was such a fun, heart-warming story!  Shy Yumi Chung dreams of being a stand-up comedian one day, but that is not what her Korean immigrant parents have in mind for her.  When she stumbles across a comedy camp meeting in her neighborhood, Yumi finds herself pretending to be “Kay”, an absent student, and taking her spot in the camp.  I enjoyed this book so much.  It’s heartfelt and funny with many themes including family, comedy, and being your true self.  Lots of hype about this one, and now I know why!

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My Life as a Potato – Arianne Costner

I SO SO SO loved this book! (I know I say that a lot!)  It is laugh out loud funny and a perfect read-aloud for the beginning of the year.  Hilarious, accurate story of seventh grader Ben, convinced he is cursed by potatoes,  as he navigates his way through middle school with a main quest to avoid embarrassment.  Fans of the Wimpy Kid series will LOVE this book!  The character development is amazing, perfectly capturing the voice and mindset of a typical middle school student, complete with self-doubt and girl crushes.

Ghost Squad – Claribel A. Ortega

Stranger Things with a hint of Ghostbusters  mixed together in this action-packed fantasy about two best friends, a ghost family and a quest for a spell book.  Twelve-year old Lucely Luna likes hanging out with her best friend, Syd, and spending time with her family.   Only most of her family are ghosts and she’s the only one who can see them.  If any book will be made into a movie this year – I predict this one!

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Bloom – Kenneth Oppel

High scores on the creep scale for this one!  Bloom is the first book in a trilogy (book #2 should be released in September) by wonderful Canadian author Kenneth Oppel, set in Salts Spring Island, B.C.   Killer vines begin a global invasion, growing fast and furiously after a rainfall.  Three teens: Anaya, Petra, and Seth, each with their own unusual trait, are the only ones who seem to be immune.  What’s their secret?  Eeeek!  This one actually creeped me out!  It’s a perfect suspenseful mix of dystopia, mystery, and horror. Sci-fi fans will fighting over this one!  Can’t wait for book #2!

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Cinders and Sparrows – Stefan Bachman

Spooky, charming adventure story filled with magic, witches, and a castle filled with ghosts.  Twelve-year old Zita is an orphan who discovers she has inherited an old castle and that she comes from a long line of powerful witches.  Zita, unfortunately, doesn’t know the first thing about being a witch.  The focus on family, friendship, and belonging in this story is fresh, magical, and enchanting.  Note – this book will be released in early October – just in time for Halloween!

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A Wolf for a Spell – Karah Sutton

I so enjoyed this magical retelling of of the classic Baba Yaga story told from the perspective of a wolf who must work together with the dreaded witch to save her pack and beloved forest.  The writing has a classic fairy tale feel and the author’s fresh twists and perspectives on this classic Russian witch tale really worked.

And there you have it!  My favorite Middle Grade novels so far this year!  Stay tuned for some exciting news about ordering these books for your school!

Thank for stopping by!  Hope one or two books have caught your eye!

 

 

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Filed under 2020 Releases, Diversity, environment, Family, Friendship, Historical Fiction, Identity, immigration, Middle Grade Novels, New Books, Novels, Point of View, Racism, Read-Aloud, Sci-Fi