Category Archives: Middle Grade Novels

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? Great MG Novels for Isolation Vacation!

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“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.” – Mason Cooley

Well, since my last post, the world has kind of turned upside down.  Many are finding themselves at home looking for things to do so why not… READ!   I see this as a wonderful opportunity to connect with a great book!  We may not be able to hug our friends, but we can always hug a good book!

Here is a list of my favorite new novels for your middle grade readers (grades 5-8) to get lost in.   Perfect for reading aloud, reading together, or escaping quietly in a favorite chair.

Check out more #IMWAYR posts on  http://www.teachmentortexts.com/ or http://www.unleashingreaders.com/

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Here in the Real World – Sara Pennypacker

This is a story for anyone who has ever felt left of center.  It is a tale for all those that march to the beat of their own drum, often times to the dismay of friends/family.  This book is filled with compassion, truth and a little magic.  Centered around Ware, an awkward introvert who doesn’t “fit”, who doesn’t like sports, has no friends by choice, and has no desire to hang with the popular crowd. He prefers disappearing into his room or hanging out at his grandmother’s retirement center.  When she falls and breaks her hip, his summer plans are ruined.  He ends up finding refuge in an abandoned church lot, which he imagines is a castle.  There, he befriends Jolene, who is using the space to grow papayas for extra money… and then the summer of imagination begins.  I am a huge fan of Sara Pennypacker’s writing – so filled with gorgeous prose, quotable phrases and metaphors.  Her book Pax is one of my all-time favorite read-alouds.  

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Chirp – Kate Messner

I was fortunate enough to meet Kate Messner and get an autographed ARC of this book at the NCTE in Baltimore this past November.  Kate Messner is a master of presenting difficult material to middle-grade readers in an accessible, age-appropriate way.  I love the gentle and appropriate way that she handles the topic of sexual harassment with respect for her readers. There is also a mystery to solve, insects to eat, and new friendships, as well as an important message about how to deal with inappropriate contact. The mystery centers around Mia, who used to be a gymnast, until the “accident”. Now she doesn’t even want to think about gymnastics and  instead is focusing on helping at her grandmother’s grasshopper farm. Strange things are happening that could ruin her grandmother’s business and Mia is determined to figure out why.  Why a grasshopper farm, you ask?  Male grasshoppers chirp, female grasshoppers are silent.  Fantastic middle grade novel – appropriate for grade 5 and up.

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Me and Bansky – Tanya Lloyd Kyi

Dominica and her best friends, Holden and Saanvi, are determined to find out who is hacking into the security cameras in their private school and posting embarrassing images of them online.  They begin an art-based student campaign against cameras in the classroom.  Love that this book was set in Vancouver and weaves art into the story, along with themes of friendship and issues of  privacy and security.  Great characters and a cute little romance in the mix as well.

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Birdie and Me – J.M.M. Nuanez

After their mother dies, Jack and her gender creative brother Birdie are sent to live with their uncles; but Uncle Carl isn’t reliable, and Uncle Patrick doesn’t like Birdie’s purple jacket, skirts, and rainbow leggings. All Jack wants is somewhere they can both live as themselves.  While this book wasn’t weepy, it is an endearing story with charming characters and a beautiful sibling relationship. Hope, family love, and acceptance.  It’s a little longer (304 pages) but hey, time we got!

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When You Trap a Tiger Tae Keller

For the reader who enjoys a little magical realism – this book beautifully tackles grief, loss, family dynamics and cultural heritage.  What I loved was the seamless way the book combines relate-able contemporary events with traditional Korean folk stories and family traditions.  Te main character, Lily, is spending the summer before grade 7 with her sister and mother visiting her very sick grandmother.  But the summer takes an interesting turn when a magical tiger straight out of her favorite Korean folk tale appears and offers Lily a deal to return a stolen item in exchange for her grandmother’s health.  Deals with tigers, as it turns out, are not as simple as they seem!

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Prairie Lotus – Linda Sue Park

Linda Sue Park admits freely that this story was inspired by the Little House books.  I LOVED Little House books as a child so was excited and curious to see how she would interpret them.   With a similar setting, readers relive a pioneer story from the viewpoint of a half-Chinese, half-white 14 year old girl, Hanna.  Hanna is resourceful, courageous, smart, and resilient, and throughout the story learns to find the courage to stand up against racism, and stand up for her own goals and dreams. Loved the author’s notes at the end to learn how the story was born from her childhood wondering if she and Laura Ingalls could have been friends.  A great choice for fans of historical fiction.

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Bloom Kenneth Oppel

For those looking for a little sci-fi, dystopian thriller – check out the first book in Kenneth Oppel’s new trilogy.  The story, set on Salt Spring Island, BC,  is fast paced, taking place over a two week period.  After an unusual heavy rain, indestructible black plants begin growing at an unbelievably rapid rate.  People begin to have strong allergic reactions to the strange new pollen in the air except for three teenagers.   Anaya, Petra, and Seth each have something a bit different about them aside from their immunity to the toxic pollen and these differences bring them together, at the same time setting them apart from the rest of the world.  Weird science, evil plants, and non-stop action – what could be better?  (and, squee! –  I have an autographed copy!)

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Music for Tigers – Michelle Kadarusman

Beautiful coming of age story woven with themes of animals, protecting the environment, musical passions, friendships, autism, anxiety, fitting in, family relationships.  Basically, there is something for everyone to identify and connect with!  Louisa, a violin playing teen from Toronto, is sent to the lush Tasmania rainforest in Australia to spend the summer with her uncle who runs a wildlife reserve.  Beautifully written, engaging characters, this gentle story follows a girl demonstrating unexpected heroism as she moves out of her comfort zone.   Great for animal lovers and budding musicians and activists.  (Please note – this book is not available until the end of April)

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The List of Things that Will Not Change – Rebecca Stead

Wow.. This book is such a beautiful story of love, life, and family.  When Bea’s parents tell her they have decided to divorce, they give her a green notebook with a green pen to record those things that will not change in her life.  On the first page, they have recorded the first thing that will not change:  they both love her and always will.   This book touches on a few current, sensitive topics including divorce, same-sex marriage, blended families and, most important, childhood anxiety.  What I love about this book is how the author so captures Bea’s anxious voice trying to navigate all the changes she is experiencing.  This book beautifully captures both the pain and joy of growing up.

GRAPHIC NOVELS

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Go With the Flow – Lily Williams and Karen Scheemeann

A wonderful, beautiful, important, relevant graphic novel which is centered around menstruation.  It is both approachable and grounded and a story that illustrates beautifully what its like to be a teenage girl in a way that is relate-able, inclusive and diverse.   Amazing characters who are such wonderful, healthy examples of female friendships – modelling communication, forgiveness and compassion.   SUCH a great book!

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la guerre de Catherine – Julia Billet

I was not able to read this book as it was in French but it is getting a lot of attention so wanted to include it for my French immersion teacher friends!  Based on a true story, this graphic novel set during World War II in France the story recounts the journey of a Jewish girl moved from location when Germans occupy Paris.  To protect them, the teachers of her progressive school help students gain new identities.  Catherine’s photography passion provides her a unique perspective of World War II .  Great read for WWII historical fiction fans.  Also available in English:  Catherine’s War 

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The Runaway Princess – Johan Troilanowski

Adorable characters.  Quirky.  Adventurous.  Hilarious.  Endearing.  I was instantly drawn in by Johan Troianowski’s art style.  And the best part about this book is that it’s completely interactive.   The reader is asked to shake the book three times before turning the page to help Robin escape a wolf, use their finger to help the characters find their way through a maze, search for a missing character on a crowded page, and so much more.  LOVE this one!

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Cub Cynthia L. Copeland

This graphic novel memoir, set in the 1970’s, is complete with bullies, bell bottoms, and possibilities!  Cindy is in grade seven and dealing with seventh grade issues including boys, hair, fashion and particularly a group of “mean girls”.   A teacher suggests she might one day become a writer and connects her with a local female newspaper reporter who becomes her mentor.  This is based on the author’s life and

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Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed – Laurie Halse Anderson

“A modern retelling of a young Wonder Woman coming into her powers and her legacy.” So this book really suprised me.  I am not a huge DC comic/Wonder Woman fan but I found it to be such an interesting take on the Wonder Woman origin myth that incorporates many contemporary issues including the refugee crisis, humanitarian issues, homelessness, human trafficking, etc.  Beautiful illustrations.

Stay safe and healthy, everyone!  And remember, you may not be able to hug your neighbour right now, but you can always hug a book!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 2020 Releases, Friendship, graphic novel, IMWAYR, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Novels, New Books, Novels

Holiday Book Gifting 2019 – Part 2 Graphic and Middle Grade Novels

Christmas books

Welcome to day two of “Book Gifting 2019”!  Yesterday, I focused on Early Chapter Books and Series, as well as Nonfiction and Activity books.  Today, I’m excited to focus on some of the most popular Graphic Novels and Middle Grade Novels perfect for gifting your middle grade readers!   Happy Book Gifting, everyone!

Graphic Novels

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Guts – Raina Telgemeirer

From the rock star graphic novelist Raina Telgemeirer comes her latest book, Guts.  This graphic memoir is targeted for middle grade/ young adult readers and explores the author’s issues with anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias.  I love how this author manages to always touch on subjects important to this age group in a respectful and appropriate way.  Heartfelt and compassionate with a sprinkle of humour.   Likely the most popular graphic novel of 2019.

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The New Kid Jerry Craft

This FANTASTIC middle grade graphic novel is getting a lot of award buzz!  It is an amazing book that approaches racism in an accessible & understandable way for young readers, while not holding back.  Told through the eyes of a new grade 7 student who is one of only a handful of students of color in an elite private school.  Great characters, lots of pop culture, funny, heartfelt… this one is a winner.

Minecraft Volume 1 (Graphic Novel) – R. Sfe Monster

Perfect book for anyone who enjoys middle grade graphic novels and playing Minecraft!   It takes place partly in the real world and partly inside a Minecraft game.  I can’t really imagine someone enjoying this who doesn’t know the game but those who do will make MANY connections!

Best Friends Shannon Hale

So good.  This standalone sequel to Real Friends dives in deep to Shannon’s grade 6 year and her struggles with friendships.  Her friends aren’t always nice and she’s not always nice either.  Why is friendship so hard?  Open and frank discussions of tween friendship, anxiety, and how friendships change.  Lots of connections here, I am certain!  (I made a lot!)

Just Jaime – Terri Libenson

The last day of Grade 7.  Friends.  Frenemies.  BFF’s.  Exclusion.  Inclusion.  Cliques. Peer Pressure. Forgiveness.  Acceptance.  This book has all of these and then some!  I made SO many connections to this book.  Middle school? – Terri Libenson NAILS it!

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Stargazing – Jen Yang

Moon and Christine are both Chinese, but while Christine’s family finds Chinese language school important and is part of a Chinese community, Moon and her mother don’t speak Chinese and are Buddhist.  This new graphic novel from the author of Prince and the Dressmaker is a sweet story of friendship, cultural and religious identity, and belonging.

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The Okay Witch – Emma Steinkellner

This book was recently awarded the School Library Journal Best Graphic Novel of 2019.  Think Sabrina the Teenage Witch meets Roller Girl.  It’s a hilarious story about a half-witch who has just discovered the truth about herself, her family, and her town all while trying to survive middle school.  A unique, charmingly weird graphic novel filled with humor and heart.  

Middle Grade Novels

Funny Girl: Funniest. Stories. Ever. – Betsy Bird

Betsy Bird asked very funny female writers for young people, ages 9-12, to create a story in any format they wanted – prose, memoir, poetry, or graphic novel format. The result of her edited anthology is a collection of hysterically funny, poignant, and heartfelt stories.  Target would be grade 4-5 readers.

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The Trials of Apollo – Book Four: The Tyrant’s Tomb – Rick Riordan

Fans of Rick Riordan will be excited to read this 4th enstallment in the Tyrant’s Tomb series.  I will admit I have not read it in its entirety but love the way Riordan mixes contemporary with mythology and his fast-paced action.  This book came out in September and was just awarded Reader’s Top Choice for MG Novel on Goodreads.  Be prepared – it’s 448 pages!

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Dear Sweet Pea – Julie Murphy

Sweet Pea is a 7th grader living in a small town struggling with the usual things—friends, school, and self-image.  Her parents have just divorced and, in an effort to keep life “normal,  live in almost identical houses on the same street.  This is such a delightful story about growing up, figuring your way through friendships, facing challenging family changes like divorce and finding your voice.  I loved the writing (hints of Kate De Camillo) and loved Sweet Pea.  Endearing and empowering.  Loved the advice columns sub-plot!

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Look Both Ways – A Tale Told in Ten Blocks – Jason Reynolds

This book is a series of short stories linked together because all of the characters go to the same school.  Some cross over and reappear, but this isn’t really about how they intersect but more about how they share the same common ground while living such vastly different lives.  Great characters dealing with difficult issues: some very mature and ready to take on the world; others are just learning to be independent.  Easy to read lots of connections.

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The Strangers: Greystone Secrets #1 – Margaret Peterson Haddix

Ooooo…. how I love the first book in a new series!  This one came out last April (now available in paperback – YES!) and is getting a LOT of buzz!  This book is a thrilling adventure with lots of mystery, suspense, and many plot twists and turns.  If your young reader enjoyed the City of Embers or A Wrinkle in Time – this is the perfect choice for them!  Chess, Emma, and Finn Greystone come home from school to find their mother staring at her laptop, where there is a news recording of three children in Arizona who have been kidnapped. Three children who have the exact same first and middle names as they do and who share their birthdays.  Their mother disappears…. and then it just never stops!  Book #2 is scheduled to be released in April 2020.

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Maybe He Just Likes You – Barbara Dee

This book explores the subject of #MeToo for the middle grade audience and the experiences of harassment and unwanted attention from classmates in an age-appropriate way.   It is a heart-wrenching—and ultimately uplifting—novel.  This one really hit me hard.  A universally important and timely book.

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Tunnel of Bones (Cassidy Blake #2) – Victoria Schwab

In this sequel to City of Ghosts, Cassidy finds herself in another adventure involving ghosts, this time in charming yet very haunted city of Paris (first book was set in Edinburgh) where her parents are filming another episode of their TV show about the world’s most haunted locations.   Perfect for fans of suspenseful ghost stories and paranormal adventures!

More to the Story

More to the Story – Hena Khan

Inspired by Louisa May Alcott’s classic, Little Women, and featuring four sisters from a modern American Muslim family, this is an incredibly wholesome and wonderful middle-grade story about illness, pursuing your ambitions, and family and sisterhood.  This new book by the author of Amina’s Voice (I LOVED that book!) truly is a modern retelling of Little Women, filled with strong, charming characters and contemporary issues.  LOVE this one!

    Thanks for stopping by!  Hopefully you found one or two great books to gift that special reader in your life!

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 2019 releases, Christmas, graphic novel, Middle Grade Novels, New Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? Holiday Book Gifting 2019 – Part 1 Early Chapter Book Series, Nonfiction and Activity Books

 

Christmas books

Well… it’s been a while since I last blogged about books.  But I had a good excuse and that is – I was writing my new book!  But I’m happy to say, I just finished the first round of editing and now waiting typeset and then that’s a wrap!  Powerful Writing Structures will be available February 7th!  Yippee!

So now I have a little more time to relax, enjoy the holidays, and get back to writing about and sharing great books!  I don’t know about you, but my book pile gets very big this time of year!  And if you are like me – you love gifting books as much as you like receiving them!  So if you are trying to do some last minute book buying for that special little or not so little someone in your life – you have come to the right place!

As there are too many books for one post, here’s the line up for the week:

Monday (today) – Beginning and Early Chapter Books and Series, Nonfiction and Activity book Gifting

Tuesday – Middle Grade and Graphic Novel Gifting

Wednesday – Picture Book Gifting (Christmas, Winter and Others)

Thursday – Book Gifting for teacher and book club friends

 

Beginning and Early Chapter Book Series

Hello, Hedgehog! 1: Do You Like My Bike?Norm Feuti

Hedgehog adores his new bike. He wants to share it with his friend, Harry. Oddly, Harry does not want to ride it. What’s going on?  Adorable early reader series, with simple text and repetition that builds fluency, and conversations.  This is the kind of book I can see children wanting to read this book over and over and over.

Chick and Brain: Smell My Foot Cece Bell

From the Newberry Honor author of El Defo comes a hilarious new graphic reader that will have your young reader in fits of giggles.  Chick and Brain. And their friend Spot. Chick likes to follow the rules, Brain might not be as smart as he looks, and Spot just wants to eat lunch.  Simple and oh, so silly!  LOVE!

For the unicorn lover in your family, here is a new early chapter book series by the author of Owl Diaries that is sure to be a hit when it is released on Dec. 26th.  (might have to include a book cover image in the stocking!) Every unicorn going to unicorn school has a magical power.  Lots of unicorn love for this one!

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Bea Garcia – My Life in Pictures – Deborah Zemke

A delightful early chapter book series with a lovely, likable narrator who happens to be an artist.  Would highly recommend to 1st-3rd graders who are transitioning to chapter books for the first time and doodlers everywhere!

Diary of a Pug #1 – Pug Blasts Off  – Kyla May

Another great new early chapter book series – this one for those furry friend lovers in your family!  Bub (Baron von Bubbles) is the self-proclaimed cutest pug on the planet who loves fashion, peanut butter, and his human, Bella.  He does not love Nutz the squirrel, baths, and the rain.  Funny, charming diary-format chapter book with colorful illustrations.

The Bad Guys in the Baddest Day Ever (The Bad Guys #10) – Aaron Blabey

This is such a popular series in school libraries and I know there will be many children thrilled to know that book #10 is about to hit the book stores!  These bad boys are BAAAAAD!  Released Dec. 26th.

Dog Man – Fetch 22 – Dav Pilkey

Fans of this extremely popular series by the creator of Captain Underpants will be thrilled to know that book #8 was just released on Dec. 10th!  This widely popular series while silly and fun, explores universally positive themes, including empathy, kindness, persistence, and the importance of being true to one’s self.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Wrecking Ball – Jeff Kinney

Book #14 in the Wimpy Kid series came out in November.  In this book, the Heffley family encounter all sorts of unexpected issues when they start a home renovation project.   This series continues to have a huge following of fans who have an appreciation for clever, amusing stories and enjoy seeing adult situations through the eyes of a kid.

Big Nate – Hug it Out!  – Lincoln Peirce

Book #21 in this series came out in September with everyone’s favorite sixth-grade prankster is back for more hilarious misadventures — and even a little romance!

 

Nonfiction and Activity Books

Truth or Lie: Sharks!Erica S. Perl

Easy reader and a great introduction for anyone interested in sharks.  What makes this unique is the engaging “find the lie” format of this book.  Would be a great one to read together!   Also available in Truth or Lie: Dinosaurs!

Two Truths and a Lie: It’s Alive! – Ammi-Joan Paquette

For slightly older readers (grade 4 and up) Two Truths and a Lie: It’s Alive! by Ammi-Joan Paquette is a highly engaging informational book that presents three unusual stories about plants and animals around the world, but only two of them are true!  Great family read-aloud and I I like how it urges readers to do their own research and fact-checking. Seriously?  Mind-control fungus? I mean, come on!  Also comes in Forces of Nature and Histories and Mysteries.  

Try Not to Laugh Challenge – Would You Rather? – OMG Edition: Hilarious, Shocking and Interactive Questions and Scenarios for Kids 

Great family fun with this thought-provoking conversation game where you and other players have to choose between two equally ridiculous and outrageous situations that you would never be faced with, in real life(hopefully).  Lots of laughs with this one.  Available in many different editions including: Would You Rather? Christmas and Would You Rather? – Ewww!

A Million Dots – Andrew Clements

For the Math trivia person in your family, Andrew Clements “A Million Dots” gives the reader a fascinating look into what “a million” actually looks like. Each page has 23,808 dots and includes a fun fact or two about one of the numbers represented on the page.  For example, at dot #186,000 we learn that light travels through space at about 186,000 miles per second. Some of the facts are completely bizarre but I was completely engaged!  (Andrew Clements sadly passed away a short time ago, so happy to include one of his books here)

Blank Comic Book for Kids – Create Your Own Story 

Kids love making their own comics and cartoons and this blank book is filled with comic frames just waiting to be filled!  Perfect gift for your budding cartoonist!


My Book With No Pictures – B.J. Novak

The Book With No Pictures meets Mad Libs!  Great way to inspire young readers and writers with this follow up to the hilarious and oh-so popular read-aloud.  Interactive and you get to write right in the book!  Bonus sheet of nonsense stickers included! A great gift to pair them together!

150 Christmas Jokes for Kids: Stocking Stuffer Edition – Lilly Winchester

Who delivers Christmas presents to dogs?  Santa Paws!!!  What is Christmas without someone telling really corny jokes?

Where Could the Animals Be?: A Fun Search and Find for 2-4 Year Olds 

“There are fourteen animals, wild and free… I wonder where they’re hiding, let’s go and see!”  A fun, interactive book where readers spot animals as they travel through farms, jungles, deserts, beaches and a winter wonderland.  Perfect for pre-schoolers!

And there you have my Holiday Gifting List!  Come back tomorrow when I will feature some great new Graphic and Middle Grade novels!

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Filed under 2019 releases, Beginning Chapter Book, Christmas, Early Readers, graphic novel, Middle Grade Novels, New Books

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