Tag 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

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