Tag Archives: Jennifer L. Holm

Summer Reading for Middle Grades

I have been a bit behind with my book blog posts this year as I have been busy writing my new Poetry book… but have been recently trying to catch up on my middle grade novels. So, I’m VERY excited to be sharing some of my favorite middle grade novels so far of 2021 with you! There are SO many amazing novels this year, so if you have a tween looking for a new book to get lost in this summer, or are a middle school teacher looking for a new book to share with your class – I’m hoping you will find one or two titles in this list. The books this year are rich in diversity and include many novels written in verse (#ownvoicesnovel and culturally immersed adventures seem to be the trend this year!), fantasy, historical fiction, sci-fi, and contemporary fiction all layered with many important themes. Happy reading, everyone!

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Red, White, or Whole Rajani Larocca

A heartbreakingly, poignant and hopeful story written in verse. Reha is a young American Indigenous girl who feels torn between her two cultures. Her life is turned upside down when her mother is diagnosed with leukemia. The voice of this character is so believable and so relatable. Have your Kleenex handy.

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Ancestor Approved – Intertribal Stories for Kids edited by Cynthia Leitch Smith

I am SO excited about this book of short stories written by American and Canadian Indigenous authors, including local BC author, Monique Grey Smith.  The short stories are perspectives of a variety of Native tweens who are all attending a major powwow in Michigan. (major text-to-text connections to the adult novel There, There by Tommy Orange!) The stories are sad, joyful, funny, mysterious – and the voices weave together beautifully to bring the pow-pow to life. A must for school libraries!

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The Frog Mother – Brett D. Huson

I had no idea that this series existed – but this is the fourth in the Mothers of Xsan series – a collection of stories that connects the world to the matrilineal society of the Gitxsan people of the Pacific Northwest Interior of British Columbia. Previous books include Sockeye Mother, Eagle Mother and Grizzly Mother. This book follows the life cycle of the spotted frog and the connection the Gitxsan people have at each stage of their lives. Gorgeous illustrations. Would be a wonderful series for integrating indigenous beliefs and knowledge into an exploration of life cycles.

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The Mysterious Disappearance of Aiden S. (as told to his brother) – David Levithan

If you are looking for a portal fantasy to escape in – here it is! One night, 12-year-old Aidan disappears. He and his younger brother Lucas both go to bed (they share a room), and when Lucas wakes up the next morning, Aidan is gone. Police are called and the town searches everywhere. Six days late, Aiden turns up. Where had he been? And so begins the story of twists and turns, truth and reality, fantasy and belief. Love the relationship between the two brothers.

The Last Fallen Star – Graci Kim

This new series by Graci Kim weaves Korean culture and folklore into a thrilling, fast-paced contemporary fantasy. I learned so much about Korean culture. The story is funny, magical, and explores some complex family relationships, sisterhood, and food! I loved the spunk and determination of Riley, the main character, who tells the story. I believe this will be a popular series!

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Unplugged – Gordon Korman

When Jett Baranov, rich, privileged, entitled tween, is sent to The Oasis wellness camp for six weeks (think low frills, no tech, vegetarian experience), he is bored and resistant. Enter a cast of diverse characters, pranks, a mystery, and the fun begins. Short, fun summer read told through multiple voices.

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The Lion of Mars – Jennifer L. Holm

What would it be like to be an Earth kid, living in a small Mars settlement in 2091, populated by just a few kids and adults? This engaging sci-fi story about 11 year old Bell, who lives on Mars at the American Mars colony explores this question as well as topics of isolation (lots of connections to Covid isolation), problem solving, and living life to the fullest. Some really great character development in this one and I like how it combined science fiction with some “deep thinking” philosophical questions.

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Alone – Megan E. Freeman

Another book I read in one sitting, heart in my throat, then sobbed at the end. Twelve year old Maddie wakes up one morning to discover that her entire town has been evacuated and she’s been left behind with her neighbour’s dog, George (best dog character ever!) The story, told in verse in Maddie’s brave voice, is harrowing, poignant, and thought-provoking. (Think contemporary version of Island of the Blue Dolphins) The language is gorgeous, with sparse text on each page – a great choice for both fluent and reluctant readers. The story was very emotional for me – sometimes quite intense but a perfect ending. (Warning – deals with the loss of an animal so be prepared) I loved everything about this book.

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Starfish – Lisa Fipps

I finished this book in one afternoon. Loved it so much. It is written in verse and explores Elle’s heart-breaking and inspiring journey through being overweight and bullied into a place of self-worth, standing up for herself, and claiming her right to take up space in the world. It is so inspiring, beautifully written, and had me in reaching for my Kleenex several times.

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Thanks a Lot, Universe – Chad Lucas

Set in Halifax Nova Scotia, this middle-grade novel featured two extremely likeable characters – Ezra and Brian. Chapters alternate between their perspectives amidst issues related to important topics including anxiety, bullying, family, and sexuality.  Love to have a new voice in Canadian middle grade novels – this one would be best suited for upper middle grades and early high school.

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The Gilded Girl – Alyssa Coleman

A wonderful mix of of magic, quirkiness, enchantment, historical fiction, justice, privileges, friendship, and heart! Set in New York in 1909, this book, inspired by the classic The Little Princess, explores issues of inequality and social-economic status mixed into a fast-paced, highly visual, magical, historical fantasy. I LOVED this book and so good for many themes and discussions.

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Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls – Kaela Rivera

Lots of excitement about this book and it’s actually the first Latinix fantasy books I have ever read. This book is SO MUCH FUN! (Think Pokemon meets Rick Riordan) It is a story about family, community, and power, and the inherent connection between all of those things. It weaves adventure, action, magic, supernatural creatures, Latinx-based mythology, friendship, and lots of emotion into one fast-paced, spirited story! Cece is a likeable protagonist and I feel a second book coming on! (or maybe a movie??)

Stamped (For Kids): Racism, Antiracism, and You

Stamped – Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

The children’s version of the groundbreaking bestseller Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You (available in both adult and YA), this book takes younger readers on a journey from present to past and back again. Readers will discover where racist ideas came from, identify how they impact America today, and meet those who have fought racism with antiracism. Along the way, they’ll learn how to identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their own lives. Powerful and one of the best introductions to the history (and present) of race, racism and antiracism for younger readers I have read. Short, easy to read chapters would be great to prompt class discussions.

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Boy – Emmanuel Acho

Wow. If you are looking for a great anchor book to help your younger readers better understand white privilege and racial issues – here it is! The nonfiction book is aimed primarily at white readers to better understand racial issues and should be in every school library across the country. It’s an adaptation of the viral video series by Emmanuel Acho called “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.” I would recommend using this as a class read-aloud to launch discussions rather than assign for independent reading as there is a lot to unpack. Each chapter focuses on a race issue including white privilege, microaggressions, bias, color blindness, systemic racism, the Confederate flag, etc. I would likely read one chapter at a time and then have a discussion. Such a great anchor book for Transform and the Knew-New strategies. It has a conversational tone and never feels as if it talks down to readers but OH, SUCH AN IMPORTANT BOOK!

Thanks for stopping by my blog! Would love to know what books are now on your TBR pile! Please share this list with your colleagues so we can get these amazing books into the hands of all the young readers we know! Thank you!

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Filed under Diversity, Fantasy, Middle Grade Novels

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