Category Archives: Middle Grade Novels

Favorite Middle Grade Novels of 2019 (so far!) for summer reading!

It’s summer!  Time to relax, re-charge, and….. READ!  At this time, I like to put out a list of favorite middle grade novels for summer reading.  I haven’t blogged about middle grade novels all year, but I’ve certainly been reading a lot of them!  Whether you know a child,  tween, or teen who might be looking for some great summer picks or you are on the look-out for a new book for next year’s read-aloud, there is something here for everyone: Sci-Fi, family, friendship, mystery, global issues, immigration, bees, wolves, foxes, and frogs!  What trends have I noticed in MG novels this year?  Stories written in multiple perspectives with extraordinary character voices.  Some very powerful books – well worth checking out!  Happy summer reading, everyone!

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Operation Frog Effect – Sarah Scheerger

Mrs. Graham, my new teacher hero, explains the butterfly effect to her class:  “It’s the idea that a small change in one thing can lead to big changes in other things…Anything and everything we do—positive or negative, big or small—can influence other people and the world.”   Talk about making connections!  I said the same thing to the grade 7’s this year when we started our unit on our developing a positive Social Footprint.  This book is getting a LOT of attention right now and I’m not surprised!  I was SO impressed with the way it addresses many difficult issues, but in a light-hearted format which kids can relate. Told through eight perspectives and through letters, graphic novel-like illustrations, poetry and movie scenes, this book explores how young people can come together, speak up and make a difference.  It is both delightfully entertaining while also sending a powerful, positive message.  A MUST read!  LOVE!

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The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise Dan Gemeinhart

Rodeo and Coyote are a father/daughter duo that live on the road in an old school bus called Yager. They have been roaming the U.S. for five years – ever since a tragic accident that left them both devastated.  This is another “buzz” book that should really come with tissues because I cried happy and sad tears the whole way through.  This story is about family, friends, grief, and adventure.  Amazing, lovable cast of characters, incredible voice, beautiful writing.  It’s perhaps a bit too early to call it my favorite middle grade read of 2019, but at this moment, it is definitely in my top three!

New Kid – Jerry Craft

Wow!  This FANTASTIC middle grade graphic novel is a must have addition for any school/classroom library. Approaches subtle & overt racism in an accessible & understandable way through the lens of the “new kid” at a private school.  Portrays serious “fitting in at school” issues and one I could see sparking a lot of rich discussions.  Major kid and teacher appeal!

The Bridge HomePadma Venkatraman

An absolutely wonderful and heart-wrenching middle grade novel that takes a bleak look at the plight of lower-caste street children in India.  Similar to when I read “A Fine Balance”, this book will stay with me for a long time.  Based on true experiences of two extraordinary sisters who escape an abusive home life and the street boys who become like brothers to them.  In spite of the immense suffering and loss, this is a story filled with hope, beauty, compassion, and love.  Told in the voice of a girl writing to her sister, this book was hard to read at times, but even harder to put down.  This book is one of two choices for the Global Read Aloud this year.  I highly recommend it.

Pay Attention Carter JonesGary D. Schmidt

When Carter Jones opens the door one morning, he discovers a butler, complete with coat tails and top hat, sent from England to assist his family of 6 after their military father is deployed overseas. We “infer” that life is rather chaotic in the house with four kids and a now single mom.  I did not know what to expect with this book but was surprised at how charming, emotional, and unique it was.  While not particularly transforming, I enjoyed the narrative voice of the middle schooler, learned a lot about the rules of cricket, and found it to be both humorous and poignant.

Count Me In – Varsha Bajaj

This book is not released until August but put it on your list or in your cart now!  It is a powerful story about Karina and Chris, two middle school students who, despite their differences, become friends after Karina’s grandfather starts tutoring Chris after school.  When Karina’s grandfather is brutally attacked by a stranger shouting hate filled words and claiming her Papa does not belong in America, Karina and Chris question how such hate could be directed someone who has lived in this country for 50 years.  Similar to  Wishtree, I really appreciate how this book deals with important and current issues on racism and immigration but at a level and book length appropriate for a younger age group.  Perfect read-aloud for grade 5-6 level to spark discussions about hate crimes, immigration issues and using social media to raise awareness.

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The Simple Art of FlyingCorey Leonardo 

Again, I did not know what to expect when I started reading this one but was surprised by how quirky, whimsical and playful it was.  This story is told from several points of view, but mainly from the perspective of Alastair – a grumpy African parrot born in a pet store who is looking for a grand escape to a better life for himself and his sister Aggie.  For fans of The One and Only Ivan, this is a wonderful middle grade story that I think many children will love.  Great characters with great voices.  I enjoyed that the three points of views (Aggie, Fritz, and Alastair)  are told through three different genres (Aggie writes letters; Fritz writes journal entries; and Alastair writes poetry).   Tender, poignant and refreshing.

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Scary Stories for Young Foxes – Christian McKay Heidicker 

I LOVE THIS BOOK!  And don’t let the cuteness of foxes mislead you – this book is scary!  And kids like scary.  Warning – Foxes die in this book.  But don’t let that dissuade you from it.  Because it’s BRILLIANT!  So so SO good!  The writing is incredible –  weaving 8 distinct stories together.   It reads like you’re one of the foxes, listening to the storyteller, travelling through tall grass, wind between trees in the forest, smelling purple, jumping over large barriers, and feeling everything Mia and Uly feel.  I can’t even explain how good this book is.  You MUST read this one!

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The Bee Maker Mobi Warren

In a recent blog post, I featured books about bees – but hadn’t discovered this one yet!  WOW!   This book is highly creative and kept me turning the pages to find out what happens.  Part science-fiction, the main character time travels from a Texas farm in 2039, where the bees have almost disappeared, to ancient Greece to search for a way to save the bees and ends up saving a boy in the process.   This one really sticks with you and I found myself thinking about the story even when I wasn’t reading it.  A page turner with deep themes – this one will appeal to a little older MG tween as well as adults.

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A Wolf Called Wander – Rosanne Parry

Attention animal lovers!  Inspired by the true story of the famous wolf, known as OR7, who wandered 1,000 miles, A Wolf Called Wander is about family, courage and a poignant journey of survival.  I fell in love Swift, the wolf – his voice and his sheer determination to live no matter what loss and adversity he faces.  (Again, I found myself thinking about dear Ivan.)  The writing is brilliant – gorgeous language that filled my soul.  Beautiful illustrations and an extra factual section about wolves and their environment are added bonuses.  Beautiful.  

Shouting at the Rain – Lynda Mullaly Hunt

From the author of Fish in a Tree and One for the Murphyscomes another poignant, moving, beautifully written story of changing friendships, belonging, loss, love, and forgiveness.  So many themes to explore here!   Here is another example of a writer who develops amazing, strong characters – I don’t think there was one character  in this book I didn’t believe in.  Delsie, our narrator, is strong, independent, kind, and accepting.  I felt like I wanted to be her friend!  She deals with friendship problems,  mean girls, abandonment issues, and struggles to define what, exactly, makes a family.  (not to mention, she loves tracking weather and HATES to wear shoes!)  Another winner by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

The Night Diary – Veera Hiranandani

I absolutely love the writing in this book!  Told from the point of view of a 12-year old Nisha through her diary entries to her mother who has passed away, this story is centered around the confusion, frustration, fear, and sadness experienced during of India’s Partition in 1947.  I learned so much history from this book.  Great characters, suspense, adventure, and heartache interwoven into a story of a family caught in the midst of horrendous cultural/political conflict–Hindus against Muslims.  Amazing sensory writing – I felt the wind, the dust, smelled the spices, felt the pencil in Nisha’s hand.   This would make an excellent choice for a grade six or seven read-aloud or Lit Circle book.

Other Words for Home – Jasmine Warga

“I just want to live in a country where we can all have dinner again without shouting about our president or rebels and revolution.”   An emotional, heart-breaking, and brilliantly written story told in verse about Jude, a 12 year old Muslim refugee facing racism in America. This book deals with the struggles and the heart ache of leaving everything you know behind and searching for your identity when facing an  unknown country and culture.  I would definitely use this book in a grade 6 or 7 class for Literature Circles or a class novel.

Sweeping Up the Heart – Kevin Henkes

What does lonely look like?  Feel like?  Sound like?  I can see some people feeling this book was a little slow – “nothing really happens”.  But there is something so very fragile and sweet in this gentle story of Amelia and her longing to be noticed, loved, felt, understood.  As teachers, we come in contact with many Amelias.  Touching and poetic, this book may not appeal to everyone, but for a thoughtful reader willing to explore loss and loneliness, it is a stunner.   Lots of beautiful subtlety in Henkes’ writing – he leaves lots of space for the reader’s thinking.  I found it heartbreaking and beautiful.

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Caterpillar Summer – Gillian McDunn

A stunning debut novel so full of voice and heart!  Instead of spending the summer with her best friend, Cat is shipped off to her grandparents with her brother Chicken, and given the responsibility of caring for him.  Oh, and did I mention she has never met her grandparents before?   So much to love about this book!  I love smart, thoughtful,  compassionate Cat and her sweet, creative brother Chicken.  I love that each and every character experiences some kind of transformation.  I love that the “bad guy” in this book is real and not “typical” or “cliche”.   I love the interpersonal relationships of the characters.  I love the visual descriptions and sensory details.  I love the themes of family, friendship, community, responsibility, and forgiveness.  I guess I love this book!

The Benefits of Being an Octopus – Ann Braden

I almost forgot to include this book because I read it several months ago – but it is a MUST read and share book.  (Thanks to Kim Fedoruk for reminding me about it!)  An eye-opening, transforming, and compassionate look at poverty and empathy,  and the right to be treated fairly and equally.  Zoey doesn’t have much of a chance to worry about what other grade 7’s might be worried about – things like homework and crushes. She’s too busy helping her family just scrape by, and taking care of her three other siblings.  According to Zoe – she’d literally have to be an octopus with eight tentacles to juggle all the tasks she faces every day.   Zoey has far more responsibility than anyone her age should ever have, and reading about her made my heart ache. Her character is so strong, complex and believable.  And the writing…. the writing is so beautiful and filled with so many amazing quotes.  This book is not to be missed.  I would recommend this book for your more mature middle grade readers  (end of grade 6 or grade 7) but every adult should read it, too.

And there you have it!  My favorite Middle Grade novels so far this year!

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

 

 

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Filed under 2019 releases, Bee Books, Friendship, graphic novel, Grief, Homelessness, Identity, immigration, Middle Grade Novels, New Books, Point of View, Poverty, Sci-Fi

IMWAYR – Gifting Books This Christmas! Top Holiday Picks for 7-12 year olds

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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, Christmas is just 8 away but there is still time to do some last minute book shopping for the young book lovers in your life!   From fact book, to craft book, to recipe book, to novels – there is sure to be a book here for every “tween” in your life!  Here are some of my favorite 2018 “gifting” books for the holidays that will also make excellent additions to your school or class library!

For your Animal lover…

An Anthology of Intriguing Animals by DK

An Anthology of Intriguing Animals – DK Publishing

A perfect gift book for the animal lover in your house. This 224 page encyclopedia format is jam packed with gorgeous photographs, illustrations, and fascinating facts about 104 creatures from the animal kingdom.  Children will love poring over the detailed images!  Amazing index packed with reference information including the size and location of each species.  I loved the addition of the tree of life showing how the animal groups are connected.  Gorgeous binding with fancy foil on the cover, gilded edged pages, and a shiny ribbon for keeping your place.  This is a real treasure!

For your Disney Lover…

 Disney Ideas Book 

This book is perfect for anyone who loves Disney!  Packed with over 100 Disney inspired arts and crafts, party games, puzzles, papercraft and many more fun and practical activities.  Stunning photography and clear step-by-step instructions to guide you through each project.  From creating Lion King animal masks to Winnie the Pooh party hats.  This book will provide hours of fun over the holidays!

For Your Young Activist….

Start Now!  You Can Make a Difference – Chelsea Clinton

What can I do to help save endangered animals? How can I eat healthy? How can I get more involved in my community? What do I do if I or someone I know is being bullied?  This book filled with facts, stories, photographs, and tips on how to change the world is perfect for school libraries and for the special activist in your life!   It has an index at the back, so teachers or parents can refer young readers to specific topics of interest and that fit.  LOVE this book and am going to be adding it to my Powerful Understanding book list on global stewardship.  Lots of ties to the new curriculum!

For your inventor…

Calling All Minds: How To Think and Create Like an Inventor Temple Grandin 

Kids who love to tinker, invent, and create will be inspired by this practical and inspirational book filled with personal stories, inventions and fascinating facts. Part personal memoir, part historic study of inventions and biography, and part DIY instructions, this book packs in a lot!  Author Temple Grandin, renowned scientist, inventor, and autism-spokesperson, shares the amazing true stories behind the innovations and inventions.  Imagination and creativity will soar!

For your Harry Potter fan…

Harry Potter Cookbook – Dinah Bucholz

Bangers and mash with Harry, Ron, and Hermione in the Hogwarts dining hall.  Mix a dash of magic and a drop of creativity, you’ll conjure up the meals, desserts, snacks, and drinks you need to transform an ordinary Muggle meals into a magical culinary experience!  150 easy-to-make recipes, tips, and techniques.  Mrs. Weasley will be VERY proud!

For your Joke Teller…

Would You Rather?: Christmas Yes or No Game and Illustrated Children's Joke Book Age 5-12 (Silly Jokes and Games for Kids Series 2) by [Shaw, Donald]

Would You Rather? Christmas Yes or No Game and Illustrated Children’s Joke Book Age 5-12 (Silly Jokes and Games for Kids Series 2)  – Donald Shaw

Packed with crazy cartoons and holiday-related amusing scenarios which will make children laugh out loud in no time!  The second part of the book is a unique YES or NO Christmas game. This game can be played with friends, classmates, parents, or even grandparents!  A perfect book for Christmas day entertainment!

For your imaginative tender-hearts… (2 suggestions)

Inkling – Kenneth Oppel

Inkling is a black blob that one day slides off the page of Ethan’s dad’s sketchbook.  What follows is a touching, fantastical story about a family trying to deal with the loss of their mother.  Written by the great Kenneth Oppel, this book is sure to capture the imagination and hearts of every child who reads it.

Sweep – The Story of a Girl and Her Monster – Jonathan Auxier

This is my all-time favorite middle grade book of 2018.  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.    

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

To inspire your reluctant risk taker…

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl – Stacy McAnulty

After being struck by lightening in a freak accident, Lucy Callahan becomes a math genius.  But after years of home schooling, she is now having to navigate through middle the perils of middle school.  A warm-hearted story celebrating friendship and stepping out of your comfort zone.

For Your Graphic Novel Lover …

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Hilo Book 4 – Waking the Monsters – Judd Winick

“Hilo” books are VERY popular in our school library so I am certain many children will be excited to know that book 4 has just been released!  In this book, the nonstop adventure continues with Space Boy Hilo, his sister Izzy, and their friends try to save the earth when giant robots threaten to take over.  Packed with humour and action! 

For Your Unicorn Lover…

The Unicorn Rescue Society – The Creature of the Pines – Adam Gidwitz

There are a LOT of unicorn-obsessed students at my school so I KNOW many will love this first book in the fully illustrated fantasy-adventure series.  Elliot and Uchenna, recruits for a secret organization to protect magical beasts, find themselves on a mission to save a Jersey Devil unicorn.  A story full of adventure, fun, and friendship, perfect for newly independent readers.  It’s fast-paced, fun, and hilarious writing.

For your Science lover…

The Third Mushroom Jennifer L. Holm

This sequel to the bestselling The Fourteenth Goldfish finds 11 yr old Ellie entering a local science fair with her Grandpa who has accidentally reverse-aged himself to a 14 year old.  They believe their new experiment just might be the secret to the fountain of youth.  This is a delightful book with lots of STEM connections!

For your athlete…

Lu – Jason Reynolds

The final book in the track series by Jason Reynolds which focuses on a different track stars (Ghost, Patina, and Sunny) and the personal challenges they are trying to overcome with the help of their Coach.  In this book, we follow Lu, a talented runner born with albinism.   Jason’s writing and “voice” for each of his complex characters is so authentic and he approaches difficult issues such as illness, injustice, bullying, gun violence, grief, addition, and death with so much honesty and heart.  I also like how each character models respect for their parents and their coach.  Love how Reynolds ties all the characters in at the end.

For your creative imaginative thinker…

The Cardboard Kingdom – Chad Sell

I love this graphic novel that follows a group of neighbourhood kids who transform ordinary boxes into costumes and castles and, in the process, discover friendships and develop strong identities.   I love the off-beat, “march to your own drum” characters and important themes included in this story celebrating imaginative play.  A perfect book to inspire MMT projects in your classroom. (you can read more about Most Magnificent Thing projects here)

For your “spooky book” lover…

Part mystery, part fairy tale and part thriller, this book will have your spine shivering and your mind guessing!   So suspenseful and gripping, (What happens next????!!!)  I could not put it down!  The story focuses on Ollie Adler, a sixth grade math whiz and fierce feminist who has withdrawn from her friends and school activities after her mother dies.   Her only solace is in books (my kind of gal!), so when she finds a woman trying to throw a book in the river one day, she steals it in order to rescue it. But when Ollie reads it, she finds that the book is a diary of horrific events that happened in the very place where her class will soon be taking a field trip…and that history may be about to repeat itself.  (Can you stand it????) You will be stealing this from your child’s room to find out what happens!!!

For your Social Justice supporter… (2 suggestions)

 

Amal Unbound – Aisha Saeed

One of my favorite “read aloud” MG novels of 2018 this book has empowering messages about the limits placed on girls and women in Pakistan and the importance of family, literacy, and culture.  For Amal, her dream of being educated and becoming a teacher is shattered when she is forced to become a servant for a wealthy family.  Amal is such a strong, inspiring, and determined character who demonstrates what it means to fight for justice.  Compelling and inspiring.

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Harbor Me – Jacqueline Woodson

WOW.  Love, family, friends, middle school transitions, immigration, racial profiling, and the difficult realities faced by many children are just a few of the issues Jacqueline Woodson explores in this powerful book.  In the story, we are given a glimpse into the lives of six tweens who are part of a classroom for “special students.”  Every Friday afternoon, the students gather in the ARTT Room (“A Room To Talk”) to spend the last hour together, unsupervised, and are encouraged to talk about anything they want.  The conversations are so natural, so emotional, so honest.  In just over 200 pages, Woodson covers a lot of issues.  An extremely important book that will stimulate LOTS of important discussions.  Beautifully written, this book made me teary, gave me goosebumps, inspired me, and filled me with gratitude.   Would make a very powerful read-aloud in an upper Middle grades.

Hoping you found at least one book for the book lover in your family!

Happy Holidays and happy reading, everyone!

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Filed under 2018, Activism, Animals, Christmas, Creating, Harry Potter, Middle Grade Novels, New Books, social justice, STEM

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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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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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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