Posts Tagged ‘Middle Grade Books’

My library is hosting a book fair this week, so Middle Grade books are on my brain in a big way! Here are some newly discovered titles paired with old favorites.

Historical Gems:

Jennifer Arena at Random House (psst…she’s such a lovely fellow bookworm.) introduced me to CROW by Barbara Wright. The narrator, 11-year-old Moses, brings us into his turn of the century world. In 1898 Wilmington, North Carolina, the legacy of Jim Crow is alive and well. One generation from slavery, a thriving black community struggles to maintain hard-won liberty, and Moses’ family is caught up in a firestorm of prejudice and hate. You’ll fall in love with the authentic voice and realistic characters.

CROW is an excellent companion to ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY by Mildred B. Taylor. Set in the 1930’s, the novel chronicles the Logan family’s fight to hold onto inherited land and personal dignity. This Newbery winner is a storm of its own, a thunderclap of fierce, emotional storytelling.

Books with Heart:

WONDER, by RJ Palacio, is a tremendous debut, a novel that coaxes out grins even as it wrings out tears. Auggie, the fifth grade protagonist is different–his face is so badly deformed, he spends much of his preschool years hiding under a toy astronaut helmet. When he starts attending school for the first time, he makes enemies and friends, enduring the worst kind of taunts and enjoying the best kinds of friendships.

WONDER is Auggie’s story, but it’s also ours. The novel captures the dual nature of childhood, both how cruel and how tender we can be with one another. It’s about the wounds we inflict and the scars we carry, all the things that teach us to do things differently the next time.

WONDER pairs *wonderfully* with FREAK THE MIGHTY by Rodman Philbrick. Philbrick’s singular voice breathes life into an unforgettable story. Max and Kevin are two different types of young outcasts, a hulking loner and disabled genius, who forge an incredible, life-altering bond–a friendship that carries them through adventure and heartbreak.

Magical Reads:

Happenstance brings this last pair-up. I had the good fortune to meet Meaghan Finnerty, a Sterling rep, at ALA Midwinter. When I asked her to recommend a book, she pressed HORTEN’S MIRACULOUS MECHANISMS (by Lissa Evans) into my hands. And I’m so glad she did!

When Stuart Horten (S. Horten) moves with his family to his father’s old stomping ground, the gears of an old family legacy spin and click, sending Stuart on a quest to puzzle out clues left by his ancestor, a mysterious magician.Combine apathetic parents, curious neighbor kids, enchanted coins and a little hocus pocus…and you’ve got a winsome, all ages read.

I loved the humor and quirk of Evan’s voice. Her fabulous book reminded of me of another whimsical favorite, THE WILLOUGHBYS by Lois Lowry. When an unconventional nanny comes to scold/nurture/rescue the abandoned Willoughby kids, a rollicking journey begins. Tim, Jane, Barnaby A and Barnaby B find their own happy endings, making fantastic discoveries all along the way. THE WILLOUGHBYS rates high on my all-time favorites list, right up there with CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY by Roald Dahl.

Hungry for More?

If you enjoyed these unconventional reads, you might also devour these one-of-a-kind treats, Compost Cookies based on the Momofuku Milk Bar recipe.


The One and Only Ivan by Katharine Applegate is one of the best books I’ve read in quite some time. And believe me, I may only be an eleven year old, but I’ve read a LOT of them

The One and Only Ivan had pretty much everything a good story needs—emotion and hopefulness and heartbreak. The author had me humming HOME (by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes) halfway through the book.

Ivan is based on a true story about a gorilla that really lived in an abusive shopping center slash zoo. He made many friends there, including a stray dog and an old elephant named Stella. The janitor and his daughter were Ivan’s buddies/comrades/amigos as well.  In spite of terrible conditions and cramped quarter, Ivan and his friends managed to have an interesting life.

Did I mention Ivan was an artistic gorilla? From birth, in the jungle, Ivan painted with dirt and mud. In the shopping center, he learned to use art supplies to paint and draw amazing, expressive pictures.

Eventually, a new baby elephant comes into Ivan’s life. Just like Ivan, Ruby had been kidnapped and torn from her family. Hunters killed both their parents. Ivan had also lost his own sister. Before Stella to elephant died, Ivan made a promise to take care of Ruby. He is determined to give Ruby a better future. He must find a way to get her (and the rest of his animal friends) out of the mall and into a real zoo, the kind of place where humans make amends for their cruel treatment of animals.

Ivan decides to use his artistic abilities to reach his goal…but you’ll have to read the rest to find out if he succeeds.

All in all, I think this was an absolutely extraordinary verse novel. I highly recommend you pick it up. I’m thankful the nice people at HarperCollins gave my mom and I a review copy!

Hungry for more?

Try my mom’s recipe for Banana Pudding. Yummo.


3 reg. sized boxes instant vanilla pudding mix

5 cups milk

8 ounces sour cream (yeah, you read that right)

12 ounces Cool Whip

2 boxes vanilla wafers

10 bananas

In a large bowl, blend pudding mix with milk (use a wire whisk). Add sour cream and half the cool whip. Mix well. Set aside. In a large bowl or dish, layer in the following order: cookies, bananas and pudding mixture. Top with remaining cool whip.