It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week. Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers
While I tend to promote a lot of picture books on my blog, I try to share novels for your middle grade readers when I can. (They just take longer to read!) I have been reading A LOT of newly released titles recently and am excited to share them with you! And with summer right around the corner, it is time to start choosing titles for your own TBR pile! For your middle grade readers, regular “Catch the Summer Book Bug” book talks will hopefully get them excited about summer reading. From fantasy, to graphic novels, adventures, and realistic stories – there is sure to be a book for every reader in your class! Maybe create a bulletin board with some of the these book covers to get the kids excited about summer reading!
The Lifters – Dave Eggers
A whimsical fantasy filled with an imaginative underground world (was making connections to the Secret World of Og!) Granite Flowerpetal (what a great name for a character), Gran for short, has moved to the town of Carousel with his family while his dad searches for work. It is there he discovers this extraordinary underground world and learns that the town is actually sinking from sorrow – the tunnels are actually holding the town up. Subtle but powerful message of hope and happiness in this quirky, intriguing story. Short, fast-paced chapters and great humour.
The Boy, the Bird and the Coffin Maker – Matilda Woods
Part folktale, part magical realism. This is a gentle inter-generational tale of a lonely, grieving older man who finds hope in an unexpected friendship with a magical bird and a kind-hearted boy named Tito. Charming characters, uplifting story and wonderful language (lots of similes!) I loved that this novel included gorgeous illustrations. This story has a fairy tale feel, similar to The Girl Who Drank the Moon.
Humor, heart, fantasy, and adventure – this book has them all! Bicycle is a 12-year-old orphan who is determined to ride across the country to meet her hero – Polish bicycle champion, Zbigniew Sienkiewicz. Along the way she meets ghosts, pie-makers, crazy inventors; gets run over in a pig stampede; and accidentally launches a missile! And just who is that mysterious woman in black chasing her? Delightful story! (Lots of reference to USA geography – hoping there will be a “Part 2” across Canada!)
All Summer Long by Hope Larson
Coming-of-age middle grade graphic novel about summer friendships and that awkward time between childhood and teenager years. When thirteen year old Bina is left to her own devices for the summer while her best friend Austin is off at soccer camp, she has to learn how to have fun all by herself. Heartfelt and easy to read, with many themes and lots of connections! (I didn’t love the orange toned illustrations – it was hard on my eyes – or maybe I’m just getting old!!)
Bob – Wendy Mass
I was quite moved by this incredibly endearing and thought provoking book about childhood friendships, change, growing older while still remembering what it was like to be young. Ten year old Livy is going back to visit her grandmother in Australia and reconnects with Bob – an endearing green creature she left 5 years earlier whom most people cannot see and she had forgotten. Great characters and I enjoyed the alternating points of view between Livy and Bob. Charming, weird and lovely all at the same time. A MUST read!
Amal Unbound – Aisha Saeed
An important, empowering story about Amal – a young Pakistani girl who loves school and dreams of becoming a teacher one day. But when she offends a member of an influential family in the village, she is sold as a servant to pay her father’s “debt” and her dreams are suddenly shattered. Thought provoking themes accessible to even a grade four reader and would make an excellent read aloud and Lit. Circle choice (great companion to The Breadwinner). An eye-opening, riveting and inspiring story with cliff hanger chapter endings and an excellent author’s note at the end. SO good!
The Boy From Tomorrow – Camille DeAngelis
An almost time-travel story of friendship between two children, Josie and Alec. They are the same age (12) and they live in the same house on 444 Sparrow Street in the same room… but a hundred years apart. Such a unique story that sounds complicated but flows very smoothly. I loved all the ways Josie and Alec manage to communicate across time, like the letters or the writing on the windowsill. Heartbreaking, and perhaps a little spooky at times – but a great read.
The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell
LOTS to love about this graphic novel featuring a diverse neighborhood of children who use their imagination to create an elaborate, imaginative kingdom out of cardboard boxes in their backyard. Each chapter stands alone featuring one child in the neighborhood and how they came to choose their imaginative character based on some of the issues they are experiencing in their own life. I love how this book gently introduces a variety of issues that middle grade students will all connect to: including siblings, bullies, inclusion, friendship struggles, gender identity, and budding crushes. The stories are heartfelt, entertaining and perfect for this age group. LOVE!
Endling: The Last by Katherine Applegate
Anything that is written by this amazing author is sure to be on my “top pick” list! (Wishtree and The One and Only Ivan are among my favorite middle grade novels EVER!) The Last Endling is the first book in an animal fantasy series which features a truly imaginative world called Nederra and imaginative characters including the protagonist Bynx, a “dairne” – a creature somewhere between a dog and a flying squirrel who can detect lies. When Bynx returns from a forbidden venture, she discovers her pack has been killed, making her possibly “the Endling” – or the last of her species. Determined to find another pack of dairnes, Bynx sets off on a “hero’s quest”, with the help of her new loyal companion Tobble. As with her previous books, Katherine Applegate weaves important themes throughout including: family, loyalty, loss, identity and hope. This adventure is fast-paced and so believable – I was completely transported into this fantasy world and can’t wait for the next book!
Ghost Boys – Jewell Parker Rhodes
This is a heart-breaking, deeply moving book that deals with harsh reality of racial issues in America throughout history. Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real one. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing. While observing the aftermath of his own death, Jerome meets Emmett, another ghost, whose similar death happened decades earlier. WOW. This story is so powerful and told in such a unique way. Due to the more mature themes in this book, I would suggest it for upper middle grades (Gr. 7-9) This book is getting a lot of “buzz” and is already on the New York Times best-seller list. It is quite a short read so would make an excellent read-aloud, no doubt prompting many important discussions.
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
WOW!! I LOVED this book about a hard-working Chinese immigrant family’s experience trying to make it in their new home. It’s funny, heart-wrenching and so straightforward in presenting the clear struggle that immigrant families experience. Ten-year old Mia, the main character, captured my heart with her sweet, spunky, courageous personality, her thoughtfulness and her sense of justice. Such a great book to start conversations about prejudices and how new immigrants are treated. This debut novel from Kelly Yang is loosely based on her own experiences and includes and interesting author’s note. A PHENOMENAL book that would make such a great read-aloud in a grade 4-5 class. SO many opportunities for discussion! LOVE THIS BOOK! (I know I say that a lot – but this is my favorite on this list!)
Thanks for stopping by! Hope you found one or two titles that caught your eye!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Top Picks for Summer Reading for 9-12 yr. olds next week!