Category Archives: Middle Grade Novels

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? Award Winners and Recent Favorites

It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week. Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers

Well…..it’s that time of year when many book awards are being announced.  I am excited to share some of these books with you, along with a few of my recent favorites!  Happy reading week, everyone!

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      SWEEP – The Story of a Girl and Her Monster Jonathon Auxier.

WINNER:   Governor General Award for Best Young People’s Literature for 2018.

Wow. I can’t say enough good things about this stunning story of courage, sacrifice, child exploitation, unconditional love, and civil disobedience mixed with just the right amount of historical elements and sprinkled with magic. Set in the late 1800’s in Victorian England, it is the story of Nan Sparrow, a young chimney sweep who is struggling to survive after her father disappears. She befriends and forms a remarkable bond with Charlie, a golem made from ash, and in the process, they save each other. I cried. Yes, I did. And you will, too. It’s heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, funny and poignant and just beautiful in every way.  This is my new favorite middle grade read-aloud for 2018!  

“We are saved by saving others.”   (One of the MANY quotes from this book)

 

Town is the Sea – Joanne Schwartz Illustrated by Sydney Smith

WINNER:  2018 TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award.  

Beautiful, simple story of a young boy who spends his day in the bright village by the sea, contrasted with his own father’s day spent in the darkness of a coal mine.   A wonderful anchor book for exploring stories across Canada – this one capturing a mall mining town in 1950s’ Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

When the Moon Comes Paul Harbridge   Illustrated by Matt James

WINNER:  2018 Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award

The author shares his own childhood memories of playing pond hockey on frozen backyard rinks.  Whether you are a hockey fan or not, this book celebrates a sense of adventure and the magic of time spent outdoors.  Gorgeous figurative language makes this a wonderful anchor book for descriptive writing and capturing small moments.  The illustrations are stunning.

They Say Blue Jillian Tamaki

WINNER:  2018 Governor General’s Literary award for illustrated literature for young people. 

Gorgeous, gentle, poetic exploration of colour and nature from a young child’s point of view.  This book would make an amazing anchor to stimulate writing about color.  Stunning illustrations.

Le Chemain de La Montagne – Marianne Dubuc

WINNER:  2018 Governor General’s Award for Young People’s Literature  (French).

While I don’t read or speak French, I did read the English translation of this book (see cover below) and can understand why it was selected for this award.  When Mrs. Badger becomes too tired to continue her daily friendship visits up the mountain, she passes the torch to Leo, an adorably cute cat, to the walk.  A gentle, tender little story that captures so many wonderful themes: the circle of life, friendship, learning from elders, sharing wisdom, and exploring and celebrating nature. Love this one.  Originally in French, translated into English.

Up the Mountain Path – Marianne Dubuc

A Big Mooncake for Little Star – Grace Lin

Such a gorgeous book!  A young child bakes a Mooncake with her mom. She’s told not allowed to eat it, but, she does nibble on it a little bit everyday.   A unique and intriguing way to explain the phases of the moon.  Simple black and yellow illustrations evokes a soothing feeling of nighttime.  Love Little Star’s and her mother’s black pajamas with big yellow stars on!  Don’t forget to check out the end papers!

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Blue – Laura Vaccaro Seeger

I loved Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s celebration of the color green in her picture book “GREEN” using gorgeous illustrations and clever cut-outs. (The book earned her a Caldecott award) In her companion book, “BLUE” she layers her celebration of color with a poignant story of a boy and his dog. I was astonished of the emotion this book – the sadness, love and hope I felt as I read it. Watch the video below (may require Kleenex) A beautiful story to share. Great anchor for inferring and also would be a wonderful anchor for color writing. Brilliant.    Watch the book video here. 

Zola’s Elephant – Randall de Seve

A girl imagines the new neighbors have an elephant — surely that is what must be in the large moving box – so there is no need to go over and introduce herself.  This is a charming, whimsical story about a new friendships and a wild imagination.  Rich, detailed illustrations by Caldecott Honor illustrator Pamela Zagerenski weave uniquely into the story.

Thank you, Omu! – Oge Mora

One of my favorite new reads this week, this is a beautiful picture book about community and the spirit of sharing told with a lovely folk tale rhythm.  A generous grandmother makes a delicious stew and shares it generously with various members of her diverse community.  When she ends up having nothing left for her own supper, the community comes together to return the favour and bring delicious food to her.  This has the feel of a classic tale and will make a perfect read aloud.  Beautiful, colorful, cut paper collage illustrations.

Imagine – Juan Felipe Herrera 

I was drawn in by the cover of this book and the illustrations by one of my favorite illustrator, Lauren Castillo.  This is a picture book biography of US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera…written as a poem.  It is filled with beautiful language and a beautiful message about following your dreams.  The poet’s journey begins as a child of a migrant family, then a boy feeding chickens, a youngster recording new words, a teenager turning those words into songs.  Lauren Castillo is a favorite illustrator of mine and her pictures bring this book to life.

The Patchwork Bike – Maxine Beneba Clarke

“This is the village where we live inside our mud-for-walls home. These are my crazy brothers and this is our fed-up mum.”

And so begins this joyful, uplifting testimony to ingenuity and the ability of kids to have fun and hope even in challenging circumstances.   This is a simple story of a girl talking about her neighborhood, her family, and her most prized possession – a bike made up of bits and pieces of scraps she and her brothers found.  The illustrations by Van Thanh Rudd are so creative – scraps on cardboard.  This book exudes JOY!

Thanks for stopping by!  Hope a few books caught your eye!

 

 

 

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Filed under 2018 releases, Award Winner, Community, Diversity, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Novels, Moon stories, New Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 2018 Top Summer Picks for 9-12 yr olds (part 2)

It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week. Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers

Last week, my IMWAYR post featured some new middle grade novels that would make excellent choices for summer reading or end of the year read-alouds!  Turns out there were TOO MANY books to mention in one blog… so here is Part 2!

Heartseeker by Melinda Beatty

I actually haven’t read this first book in a debut series as it is not released until June 5th – but it’s certainly on my TBR summer list.  It’s getting a lot of great ARC reviews and I so like the concept behind this fantasy adventure about a girl named Only who can see lies.  When news of Only’s abilities reaches the king, he commands her to work for him to seek out traitors and corruption.  WOW!  Sounds like a winner!

The Mortification of Fovea Munson by Mary Winn Heider

So this book may sound a little weird and morbid – parents who work in a cadaver lab, a tiger kidnapping, talking severed heads… but with such an original plot line, and laugh-out-loud humour – I think it will appeal to many middle grade readers.  Fovea (whose name means eyeballs, by the way), is a 7th grader – embarrassed by her parents, mocked by her peers and without a single friend. She spends the summer working in her parent’s cadaver lab with a whole lot of body parts and in the process, discovers herself, some new friends and a new “embrace the moment” approach to life.  Perhaps not for everyone – but would certainly appeal to middle grade readers (Gr. 6-7 range) who enjoy this type of “screw-ball comedy” and the “ickier” side of things!

Nightbooks by J.A. White

Another book I have on my MUST READ this summer (not released until mid July but I have my pre-order in!) is this scary (but apparently not too scary!) re-telling of The Arabian Knights that sounds like a mixture of Neil Gaiman’s books and Grimm’s fairy tales.  It is the story of Alex, a monster-loving boy, who finds himself trapped in a magical apartment building.  In order to stay alive, he has to tell the witch who captured him a scary story every night.  Sounds Ah-Mazing!

Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea – Lynne Rae Perkins

A charming, breezy read – perfect for summer!  A family with two young girls goes on vacation, spending a week on the ocean.  No huge dramas, life-threatening crises, or earth shattering issues – but a heart-warming celebration of small moments.  Walking on the beach, feeling the ocean waves for the first time, sand castles with different kinds of bucket mixtures, imaginative play, a new friend, horseshoe crabs and learning to be brave.  Sweet but not fluffy.  Love the addition of some wonderful illustrations!  This is the kind of book I would have LOVED when I was in grade 6 or 7 – and I love it now!

Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe –  Jo Watson Hackl

A charming coming-of-age story – this one with an endearing protagonist, lots of adventure and an added suspense, mystery and a treasure hunt.  I was hooked right away with the authentic voice of Cricket – a young girl dealing with the death of her father and the disappearance of her mother.  Cricket’s adventures are driven by a longing to heal her family and are filled with ups and downs and twists and turns.   Lots of life lessons in this one that will leave you filled with sadness, hope and love.

Where the Watermelons Grow – Cindy Baldwin 

WOW – a beautifully written, moving, sensitive story about families living with mental illness.  Gorgeous writing with wonderful descriptions of the charming characters in a small southern town and the sticky summer heat.   My heart ached for Della and her concern about her mother, who suffers from schizophrenia.  The author does not shy away from difficult, important issues that we often have no control over.  A wonderful, heart-wrenching story filled with hardships and harsh realities, yet also filled with love and hope.  Likely this would be more suited for older middle grades and even teen readers.  I recommend a box of Kleenex and a fresh watermelon close by – I started craving one while I was reading!

You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly

I was excited to read this second book by Erin Entrada Kelly, who won the 2018 Newberry for her book Hello, Universe.  She focuses on similar themes in this book – family stress, bullying and friendships.  Charlotte and Ben are two middle school students who connect through an online Scrabble game.  Their new friendship becomes invaluable as the chaos in each of their lives begin to spin out of control.   I enjoyed the alternating chapters that focus on the scenarios in each child’s life.   A great story about the importance of connecting with others for helping us navigate through life’s ups and downs.

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Breakout – Kate Messner

A group of young students everyday lives are turned upside down when two inmates escape from the local prison.  This compelling story about prejudice and racism in a small town was inspired by the escape and subsequent search of two prisoners from the Clinton NY correctional facility in 2015.  Written in a very unique format depicting multiple points of view told through a series of letters, essays, articles, texts, newspaper articles and poetry.  Even though it is 400 pages, the format makes it a surprisingly fast read.  I really like how Kate Messner weaves important and current themes into her books and believe this one will spark many thoughtful and reflective conversations.

Sunny – Jason Reynolds

Sunny is the 3rd book in Jason Reynold’s popular Track series.  This book follows 12-year-old Sunny Lancaster, the #1 middle distance runner of the Defenders whose mother died the day he was born.  Sunny’s story is very different than  Ghost or Patina.  It is told in a series diary entries Sunny keeps to help control all the thoughts and ideas swirling around in his head.  It becomes clear through the stream of consciousness entries that Sunny’s brain doesn’t process things like other kids – he jumps from thought to thought, from subject to subject, rhyming and playing with words.  Sunny’s story is so authentic, so sad, so full of hope – I think it is my favorite in the series.

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty

Charming story about overcoming obstacles and finding your place in the world.  Twelve year old Lucy was unharmed after she was struck by lightning strike four years ago.  But it left her with some compulsive behaviors and somewhat of a mathematical savant, making navigating, fitting in, and being accepted in middle school very challenging.  So much to love about this book… the short chapters make easy reading, great character conversations, very “connectable”,  lots of math and STEM connections, and love the dog!!!

Thanks for stopping by!  Hope you found one or two titles that caught your eye!

 

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Filed under 2018 releases, IMWAYR, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Novels, New Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 2018 Top Summer Picks for 9-12 yr olds (part 1)

It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week. Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers

While I tend to promote a lot of picture books on my blog, I try to share novels for your middle grade readers when I can. (They just take longer to read!)  I have been reading A LOT of newly released titles recently and am excited to share them with you!  And with summer right around the corner, it is time to start choosing titles for your own TBR pile!  For your middle grade readers, regular “Catch the Summer Book Bug” book talks will hopefully get them excited about summer reading.  From fantasy, to graphic novels, adventures, and realistic stories – there is sure to be a book for every reader in your class!   Maybe create a bulletin board with some of the these book covers to get the kids excited about summer reading!

The Lifters – Dave Eggers

A whimsical fantasy filled with an imaginative underground world (was making connections to the Secret World of Og!)  Granite Flowerpetal (what a great name for a character), Gran for short, has moved to the town of Carousel with his family while his dad searches for work.  It is there he discovers this extraordinary underground world and learns that the town is actually sinking from sorrow – the tunnels are actually holding the town up.  Subtle but powerful message of hope and happiness in this quirky, intriguing story.  Short, fast-paced chapters and great humour.

The Boy, the Bird and the Coffin Maker – Matilda Woods

Part folktale, part magical realism.  This is a gentle inter-generational tale of a lonely, grieving older man who finds hope in an unexpected friendship with a magical bird and a kind-hearted boy named Tito.  Charming characters, uplifting story and wonderful language (lots of similes!)  I loved that this novel included gorgeous illustrations.  This story has a fairy tale feel, similar to The Girl Who Drank the Moon.

Humor, heart, fantasy, and adventure – this book has them all!   Bicycle is a 12-year-old orphan who is determined to ride across the country to meet her hero – Polish bicycle champion, Zbigniew Sienkiewicz.   Along the way she meets ghosts, pie-makers, crazy inventors; gets run over in a pig stampede; and accidentally launches a missile!  And just who is that mysterious woman in black chasing her?  Delightful story!  (Lots of reference to USA geography – hoping there will be a “Part 2” across Canada!)

All Summer Long by Hope Larson

Coming-of-age middle grade graphic novel about summer friendships and that awkward time between childhood and teenager years. When thirteen year old Bina is left to her own devices for the summer while her best friend Austin is off at soccer camp, she has to learn how to have fun all by herself.  Heartfelt and easy to read, with many themes and lots of connections!  (I didn’t love the orange toned illustrations – it was hard on my eyes – or maybe I’m just getting old!!)

                                                                Bob – Wendy Mass

I was quite moved by this incredibly endearing and thought provoking book about childhood friendships, change, growing older while still remembering what it was like to be young.  Ten year old Livy is going back to visit her grandmother in Australia and reconnects with Bob – an endearing green creature she left 5 years earlier whom most people cannot see and she had forgotten.  Great characters and I enjoyed the alternating points of view between Livy and Bob.  Charming, weird and lovely all at the same time.  A MUST read!

Amal Unbound – Aisha Saeed

An important, empowering story about Amal – a young Pakistani girl who loves school and dreams of becoming a teacher one day.  But when she offends a member of an influential family in the village, she is sold as a servant to pay her father’s “debt” and her dreams are suddenly shattered.  Thought provoking themes accessible to even a grade four reader and would make an excellent read aloud and Lit. Circle choice  (great companion to The Breadwinner).   An eye-opening,  riveting and inspiring story with cliff hanger chapter endings and an excellent author’s note at the end.  SO good!

The Boy From Tomorrow – Camille DeAngelis

An almost time-travel story of friendship between two children, Josie and Alec. They are the same age (12) and they live in the same house on 444 Sparrow Street in the same room… but a hundred years apart.  Such a unique story that sounds complicated but flows very smoothly. I loved all the ways Josie and Alec manage to communicate across time, like the letters or the writing on the windowsill.  Heartbreaking, and perhaps a little spooky at times – but a great read.

The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell

LOTS to love about this graphic novel featuring a diverse neighborhood of children who use their imagination to create an elaborate, imaginative kingdom out of cardboard boxes in their backyard.  Each chapter stands alone featuring one child in the neighborhood and how they came to choose their imaginative character based on some of the issues they are experiencing in their own life.  I love how this book gently introduces a variety of issues that middle grade students will all connect to:  including siblings, bullies, inclusion, friendship struggles, gender identity, and budding crushes.  The stories are heartfelt, entertaining and perfect for this age group.  LOVE!

                                            Endling: The Last by Katherine Applegate

Anything that is written by this amazing author is sure to be on my “top pick” list!  (Wishtree and The One and Only Ivan are among my favorite middle grade novels EVER!)   The Last Endling is the first book in an animal fantasy series which features a truly imaginative world called Nederra and imaginative characters including the protagonist Bynx, a “dairne” – a creature somewhere between a dog and a flying squirrel who can detect lies.  When Bynx returns from a forbidden venture, she discovers her pack has been killed, making her possibly “the Endling” – or the last of her species.  Determined to find another pack of dairnes, Bynx sets off on a “hero’s quest”,  with the help of her new loyal companion Tobble.    As with her previous books, Katherine Applegate weaves important themes throughout including: family, loyalty, loss, identity and hope. This adventure is fast-paced and so believable –  I was completely transported into this fantasy world and can’t wait for the next book!

Ghost Boys – Jewell Parker Rhodes

This is a heart-breaking, deeply moving book that deals with harsh reality of racial issues in America throughout history.  Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real one.  As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.  While observing the aftermath of his own death, Jerome meets Emmett,  another ghost, whose similar death happened decades earlier.  WOW.  This story is so powerful and told in such a unique way.  Due to the more mature themes in this book, I would suggest it for upper middle grades (Gr. 7-9) This book is getting a lot of “buzz” and is already on the New York Times best-seller list.   It is quite a short read so would make an excellent read-aloud, no doubt prompting many important discussions.

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

WOW!!  I LOVED this book about a hard-working Chinese immigrant family’s experience trying to make it in their new home.  It’s funny, heart-wrenching and so straightforward in presenting the clear struggle that immigrant families experience.  Ten-year old Mia, the main character, captured my heart with her sweet, spunky, courageous personality, her thoughtfulness and her sense of justice.  Such a great book to start conversations about prejudices and how new immigrants are treated.   This debut novel from Kelly Yang is loosely based on her own experiences and includes and interesting author’s note.  A PHENOMENAL book that would make such a great read-aloud in a grade 4-5 class.  SO many opportunities for discussion!  LOVE THIS BOOK!  (I know I say that a lot – but this is my favorite on this list!)

Thanks for stopping by!  Hope you found one or two titles that caught your eye!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Top Picks for Summer Reading for 9-12 yr. olds next week!

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Filed under 2018 releases, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Novels, New Books, Read-Aloud

Top 10 Tuesday – Top Ten New Middle Grade Novels Worth Reading

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With only a few months left until the end of the school year, you may be looking for that “just right” end of the year read-aloud for your class to send them off into the summer bursting with book love!  There are many amazing new books that I have fallen in love with and hope you do, too!  Here are my top ten favorite new books to fill your classroom and your hearts with book joy.

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1. A Boy Called Bat – Elana K. Arnold

Bixby Alexander Tam, or Bat, is great at Math and knows more about animals than anyone in his class, but he is not great at making friends. When his mom, a veterinarian, brings home a baby skunk, Bat becomes the best skunk care-taker ever, all while trying to navigate his world. A Boy Called Bat by Elana K Arnold is a charming story for your younger middle grades (Gr. 4-5, possibly gr. 3) I like that this book has a character most likely on the autism spectrum, without the book being about that. The story focuses more on Bat’s love of animals and how this empathy for animals helps him connect to his classmates. This book is tender, heartwarming and funny with an amazing character you and your students will fall in love with. Major warm fuzziness.

2. Orphan Island – Laurel Snyder

This  book is not available until the end of May but it is a MUST read!  So much to love about this deep, compelling, heartbreaking, and completely one-of-a-kind novel about nine children who live on a mysterious island.  I was completely captivated by the writing, the themes, the story – I could not put this book down.  So much emotion and pain and beauty.  WOW.   Perfect read-aloud for grade 5-6 level that will stimulate lots of discussions.

3. See You In the Cosmos – Jack Cheng

A “road trip” novel, narrated by space-obsessed 11 year old Alex through a series of Podcasts.  There have been a lot of books written through letters, emails, situation reports – but this is the first I have read that is written in podcasts. Protagonist Alex travels to a large rocket festival with hopes to launch a rocket into space carrying a golden iPod.  His a journey toward family, love, hope, and awe is funny and moving.  

4. The Ethan I Was Before – Ali Sandish

Gorgeous, Gorgeous, Gorgeous debut middle grade novel.  So much emotion in this hauntingly beautiful book – I cried in many places.  Ethan is a haunted, broken boy,  filled with grief and guilt about an undefined accident that happened to his best friend.  This is a book of loss, love, guilt, resilience and forgiveness.  It is a multi-layered plot but the story strands all weave together in the end.  Fast paced and beautifully written.

5. Short – Holly Goldberg Sloan

Counting By 7’s author Holly Goldberg Sloan’s new book is a endearing novel about a short girl who is cast in her first theater role as a munchkin in a summer production of Wizard of Oz.  Julia has such an authentic voice that had me laughing one minute and welling up the next.  Loved the realistic “musical production” setting and would be a great connect book for students involved in theater or school productions.

6. Hello Universe – Erin Entrada Kelly

So much to love about this book that takes place almost entirely in a single day with an unusual cast of characters who come together for a strange adventure.  I love the diversity of the characters, the combination of reality, adventure and magic, the weaving in of Filipino culture and stories (told by a whimsical grandmother), the charming, witty narrative, the themes of family, friendship and believing in yourself… I could go on and on but just read it!

7. Me and Marvin Gardens Amy Sarig King

This book is the perfect way to approach environmental issues with the middle grade audience!  (think Hoot by Carl Hiassen).  Me and Marvin Gardens is a cleverly written story about a changing world and the changing environment.  I believe I found a class discussion could come from almost every page!  While filled with important environmental issues, it is also a coming-of-age story as sixth-grade Obe must overcome fear and deal with bullies.  Excellent choice for a read-aloud!

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The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street – Lindsay Currie

Ahhhhhhh!  This book is CREE-PY!  But Oh, SOOOO good!  If you like history, mystery and scary stories – this is for you!  As well you will find…Friendship, humor, suspense, emotion, family, heart.  So well written.. and oh, and did I mention it was scary????

9. Amina’s Voice – Hena Khan

An excellent story filled with many issues middle grade readers will connect to – changing friendships, parental restrictions, having the courage to try new things and trying to find your own path.   I loved how Amina’s culture, faith and experiences being a Pakistani American Muslim are woven into the story in such a natural way.  Great writing and memorable characters. 

1o. Chester and Gus – Cammie McGovern

Written from the point of view of Chester, a therapy dog in training, as he tries to build a relationship with his human, Gus, who happens to be autistic. This book will make you laugh, cry and want to hug every dog you meet.  The power of this dog’s love for Gus will steal your heart.  LOVED this book SO much!

Thanks for stopping by!  Which book or books have caught your eye?

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Filed under 2017 releases, Middle Grade Novels, New Books, Top 10 Tuesday

Top 10 Tuesday – Top Ten Read-Alouds to Link to Your Content Areas

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Using novels to link to your content areas is a great way to introduce an area of study or inquiry to your class. Reading these books aloud during your unit will keep your students engaged, build their background knowledge and give them many opportunities for making connections, questioning and inferring. While there are many to chose from, here are my top ten novels (plus 2!) for both primary and intermediate grades with links to content:

(Please note that the grades listed are only suggested and that pre-reading any book before reading it aloud to your class is strongly recommended.)

                     1.    Appleblossom, the Possum – Holly Goldberg Sloan

                            Content Link: science, animals, marsupials    Gr. 2-3

Delightful glimpse at the world from a charming little marsupial’s point of view.  Beautiful illustrations and a perfect read-aloud for a grade 2-3 class learning about animal families.

2. The Prince in the Pond:  Otherwise Known as De Fawg Pin – Donna Jo Napoli

Content Link – science, frogs, life cycles    Grade 2-4

A delightful fairy tale about a frog having been turned from a prince by a hag, making the best of his new life as he mates, has children, and instills a new kind of thinking into his his frog family.  Lots of frog life-cycle facts woven into this charming story.

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3. Nuts to You  -Lynne Rae Perkins

Content Link: nature, animals, tree conservation, environment     Gr. 2-4

Two courageous squirrels set out on an adventure to save their friend from a hawk.  Funny, heartwarming, suspenseful story of friendship.

4. Stinky Cecil in Operation Pond Rescue – Paige Braddock

Content – science, biology, pond life, conservation     Grades 2-3

A hilarious graphic novel for young readers featuring a cast of memorable animal characters who live in a small pond.  When they discover their home will soon be bulldozed to make way for a new highway, Stinky Cecil and his friends attempt to save their pond.

5. The Wild Robot – Peter Brown

Content: adaptation; environment; survival; community; climate change  Gr.  4-6

A robot discovers she is alone on a remote island.   This is an amazing survival story that would make a great read-aloud to stimulate rich discussions about what happens when nature and technology collide.  Heart-warming and action packed!

6. Ghost Voyages II: The Matthew – Cora Taylor

                           CONTENT – Social Studies, Canadian history, explorers, John Cabot   Gr. 4-6

When he touches his grandfather’s old stamp, 11 yr. old Jeremy travels back in time and finds himself sailing on a tall ship with John Cabot as he claims Newfoundland for England.   An exciting adventure story filled with important moments in Canadian history.

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7. Inside Out and Back Again – Thanhha Lai

         Content – Social Studies, immigration history, Vietnam war       Gr.  5-7

A beautifully written, moving story of immigration told in verse through the eyes of a young girl during a year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from her home country of Vietnam to Alabama.

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8. The War That Saved My Life – Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Content links – historical fiction, WWII; disabilities, survival.   Gr.   5-7

A heartbreaking and emotional story Ada, a young girl with a club foot who escapes with her brother from their abusive mother.  This novel is set in WWII England and weaves historical moments throughout.  I was particularly struck by the remarkable character development.

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                                               9.  Fatty Legs – Christy Jordan-Fenton

                        Content – Aboriginal issues, residential schools, social justice     Gr. 5-7

Fatty Legs tells the true story of an eight-year-old Inuit girl named Olemaun Pokiak and her experience with residential school.    Short, lyrical and straightforward memoir recounting the cruel treatment she endured and the hope, resilience, and unbreakable spirit she showed.

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10 . The Boundless – Kenneth Oppel

  Content link – Canadian history, building of the CPR    Suggested Grade  6-8

An action packed, rags-to-riches, adventure story of a boy on the maiden voyage of a cross country maiden journey of The Boundless – the world’s longest and most luxurious train. Sprinkled with facts about the history of the expansion of the Canadian railroad, facts and scenes from Halifax to Victoria, including some mythology of Sasquatches and the Hag of the Muskeg.           

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11 . Zombie Baseball Beatdown – Paolo Bacigalup

Content -Food safety, racism, immigration, activism     Gr. 7-9

A high-energy, high-humor look at the zombie apocalypse that has underlying messages about the health of our meat supply and how policies on illegal immigrants allow employers to take advantage of them.   And how could you not like a zombie cow head?

12  . Paper Wishes  – Lois Sepahban

Content: historical fiction, WWII, Japanese internment camp.   Gr. 6-8

A fascinating and often painful truth of WWII’s Japanese internment camps is the setting for this beautifully written story of a loving family supporting each other through unimaginably difficult circumstances.

Thanks for stopping by!  Would love to know which book has caught your eye!

 

 

 

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Filed under Canada, Content links, Links to content, Middle Grade Novels, Novels, Read-Aloud, Science, Top 10 Tuesday

Top 10 Tuesday – Top Ten Favorite Middle Grade Novels (Gr. 5-8) of 2016 (So Far!)

top 10

It’s Tuesday, so I’m posting my own version of the Top 10 list!  I’ve been getting several requests from teacher friends for recommendations for middle grade read-alouds so I have put together a list of my top ten favorites from 2016.  There are so many extraordinary books to chose from and always difficult to narrow it down to just 10 (I ended up with 12!) Please note that even though I have included it on a list of my favorites, before reading aloud to your class, please read it through yourself to ensure it is a good fit for you and your class.

OK… grab a Kleenex box and here we go….

1. Raymie Nightingale – Kate DiCamillo

From one of my favorite writers comes a simple, strong and whimsical story of three friends during the summer of 1975.  A tale of friendship, perseverance, poverty, loss and growing up. I loved the characters, all of them – Love Raymie. Love Beverly. Love Louisiana. LOVE Louisiana’s Grannie.   While this is not my favorite KD book, it is high on my list of favorites of 2016.

2. The Boy at the Top of the Mountain – John B0yne

From the author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas comes another story depicting the horrors of WWII.  After his father, a drunken German soldier, is killed by a train and his French mother dies of consumption, seven-yr. old orphan Pierrot is eventually taken in by his aunt, a housekeeper in large mountain retreat in Austria. While younger readers may not realize without some prompting, adult readers quickly infer that the home is that of Adolph Hitler.  I read this book in one sitting – could not put it down.  I would suggest pre-reading it to ensure appropriate content for your class, as there are some violent and tense scenes.  For older students, it would stimulate discussions around innocence corrupted, the attractions of power, and the resilience of youth.

3. Pax – Sara Pennypacker

Oh, this book.  This book.  A boy, a fox, a war – tender, so beautiful, so emotional.  So many ideas and themes are wrapped around the words: friendship, love, trust, betrayal, loyalty, war, peace.  Please read and share this book.

4. The Seventh Wish – Kate Messner

I highly recommend this book as a read-aloud in a grade upper elementary class.  A modern day fairy tale about a young Irish dancer who, trying to make some money to buy herself a new dance dress, catches a magic fish that grants wishes if she’ll let it go.   Sounds a little simple – but this book is so much more.  At times you will laugh, at times your heart will be breaking.   This book looks at family dynamics, addiction, middle school, and Irish dancing with insight and tenderness.   I follow Kate Messner on social media and know that she received some backlash from some schools about her including the subject of heroin addiction.  While I understand some may not be comfortable with this subject matter, I admire the way she presents this real-life problem gently and honestly.

5. The Wild Robot – Peter Brown

What would happen if a robot happened to arrive on an island that is humming with wildlife?  How would it survive?  And so begins this unique, unexpected and delightful survival story that somehow manages to hit many ‘hot topics’ including: disability, climate change, civilization, violence in nature, gun violence, balance in nature. While this sounds heavy handed – it’s not!  Peter Brown has created a very readable, authentic story with a unique voice given to all the creatures on the island.  This book is powerful and gentle and would make a great read-aloud in a grade 4-5 class.

6. Ms. Bixby’s Last Day – John David Anderson

The story of a brilliant teacher who sees the good in every single student, especially the little things that others don’t see. When her career gets cut short because of a cancer diagnosis, three boys decide to give her a good-bye party to remember.  I love the different voices in this book, as we discover through each boy, just why Ms. Bixby is so special to them.  Yes, you will cry – but you will also laugh along with your students.   I love this book.

7. Maybe a Fox – Kathi Appelt

Wow.  This story of grief and loss is haunting and magical; sad and heart-wrenching.  It is the story of two sisters, Jules and Sylvie, who are being raised by their father after their mother dies.  I loved the exquisite writing; I loved characters; I loved the fox; I loved the way the human world and the animal/nature world intersect; I loved the way death and grief (one of the sisters dies early in the book) are treated with dignity, grace and love. I cried and so will you.

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8. Hour of Bees – Lindsay Eager

I feel like a broken record but this book is extraordinary and lingers with you long after you finish it.  It has a wonderful setting (N ew Mexico desert), a fantastic group of characters, and completely enchanting magical elements. Oh, and did I mention beautiful writing? Instead of spending the summer before junior high with her friends in Albuquerque, Carolina is stuck in the New Mexico desert, with her mom, dad, little brother, half-sister Alta, and Grandpa Serge who she’s meeting for the very first time. Serge is suffering from dementia, and the family has come to help sell his house and move him to a seniors facility.  Caroline is drawn into Grandpa through his magical stories of the desert and soon the line between reality and magic becomes blurred.  Original, thought-provoking and beautifully written.

9. When Friendship Followed Me Home – Paul Griffin

Here is another book that takes you on an emotional roller coaster – one minute I was laughing, the next I was tearing up.  WOW.  Ben is a twelve year old, former foster child who has finally found a loving home and mother. Ben rescues a scruffy dog he names Flip and befriends a librarian’s daughter named Halley. When everything in Ben’s life suddenly changes, he discovers the true meaning of family and friendship.   I loved the characters in this book and the writing and dialogue is beautiful and authentic.  It’s a tear jerker and tackles some difficult issues, including foster care, physical abuse, cancer, and grief.  Recommended for mature grade 6 and up.

10. Save Me A Seat – Sarah Weeks & Gita Varadarajan

This book is a realistic story set in a school and told in two different voices, making it a great choice for a read-aloud.  Joe and Ravi are struggling at school for completely different reasons: Ravi is a recent immigrant trying to fit in and Joe has some learning difficulties and is often bullied.  Over the course of a week, Ravi and Joe find common ground and a bond in their differences. Great book for making connections.  I loved the authentic voice and diversity of each character.  The added bonus was learning a bit more about their cultures from the descriptions of food – from school lunches to meals at home.   There are even recipes included at the end!

                                              AND BECAUSE I HAD TROUBLE COUNTING TO TEN…

11. The Land of Forgotten Girls – Erin Entrada Kelly

The school where I teach is attended by many Filipino families, so I was excited to read this book about two Filipino sisters. It is another heart-breaker but also a celebration of stories and sisters. Sol and her younger sister Ming live in poverty in Louisiana with their abusive stepmother after their father returns to the Philippines. Sol tells fairy tales which interweave with the plot and help give the sisters strength. A moving book for middle grade readers that highlights themes of sisterhood, friendship, survival and imagination.  As a mother, I found it difficult to read in parts, but the book is ultimately hopeful with strong female characters.

12. The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary – Laura Shovan

Wow – this book, written in verse, is extraordinary, creative and unique.   You really need to read it to appreciate how amazing it is.  From start to finish, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary is completely delightful in every way. Through the voices of 18 very real and very lovable fifth graders, we experience their individual stories as well as the collective story of their class during a very momentous year in the history of their school – their school is being torn down.  So many authentic, diverse voices of family, culture, friendship and personality.  A perfect book for making connections and a must read-aloud book!

 There are SO MANY amazing new novels to read and share with your class this year!

Thanks for stopping by.  Would love to know which book has caught your eye!

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Filed under 2016 releases, Middle Grade Novels, New Books, Read-Aloud