It’s hard to believe that it is February and we’re already one month into 2017! I’m so fortunate to have many, many happy memories from 2016. We’ve spent lots of time traveling to reconnect with old friends and to visit with family. We got to visit two national parks, Shenandoah and Cumberland, the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Michigan, to see the deserts of Texas and New Mexico, as well as the mountains of Colorado. We got to spend lots of time with both of our sons (it’s so wonderful to have our older son living in Virginia and our younger son close by!), and to visit my brother and sister-in-law in New Jersey. And of course we had the opportunity to be part of the joy and love at two of our nieces’ weddings. Finally, we ended our year by adopting a greyhound named Brandy. She’s two years old, very sweet and certainly has a mind of her own. There are days when I’m ready to give her back, but most of the time we’re thrilled to have her in our family! So now it’s time to get back to my happy place of writing about kids’ books. There are so many new ones, as well as some older ones that I want to share with you. I’ll begin with 5 middle grade books.
by Melissa Sweet
I knew that I greatly admired E.B. White, the author of many books including, Charlotte’s Web, The Trumpet of the Swan and Stuart Little, before I read this book, but now I have to admit I’m a little obsessed! And I definitely want to move to Maine and live on a farm! Melissa Sweet’s story and illustrations pulled me into Mr. White’s life from his early years when he won his first literary prize at age nine, throughout his almost sixty year career at the New Yorker. I learned that during his teenage years, he had stories published in St. Nicholas, a monthly children’s magazine, along with some other budding authors, Edna St. Vincent Millay, William Falkner and Rachel Carson. That fact, along with learning that his best friend was James Thurber, his office mate at the New Yorker, was fascinating to me, because it made me realize all of these amazing literary talents were of the same era and were indeed friends. I learned about his farm in Maine, his barn where he was inspired to write, Charlotte, and about his love for his family.
Melissa Sweet’s illustrations are a combination of her watercolors, photographs and collages of “a box of vintage office supplies, which she imagined were akin to what might’ve been in stock at the New Yorker offices.” She has included many photographs from the White family albums, which were shared by Mr. White’s granddaughter, Martha White.
I flew through this book and felt a loss when I finished. It was inspirational and a real pleasure to get lost in the pages for a few hours. Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White would be a great choice for any of your kiddos who are looking for a biography for a school assignment, or for a family read aloud after sharing one of Mr. White’s novels. Mom and Dad would enjoy it just as much as the kids!
by Kate Beasley
Gertie is a fifth grader who is on a campaign to be “100% Not-From Concentrate AWESOME!” Her mom, who abandoned her at birth, lives in the same small Alabama town, and refuses to acknowledge Gertie’s existence. However, Gertie is a spunky, creative and determined little girl that you can’t help but admire. She’s a great problem solver, and when an obstacle appears in her path to success, she always finds a way to overcome it. But your heart breaks a bit when she struggles unsuccessfully to win her mother’s love and admiration. The story is full of friendship, kindness and humor that will bring many smiles and a few tears, but will also fill your heart with joy.
by Cynthia Lord
Lucy has moved once again, and this time it’s to a small lakeside town in New Hampshire. Her dad, a famous photographer often feels the need to have a change in scenery, and as a result Lucy’s family has lived in many different towns in the ten years of her life. Lucy decides to make the most of her new home and becomes good friends with her next door neighbor, Nate. They spend their summer taking photos of the lake, the loons and Nate’s grandma, for their anonymous entry into a photography contest Lucy’s dad is judging. But will her pictures ever stand up to her dad’s high standards? And can Nate face what the photographs are showing about his precious grandmother and his summers at the lake? This is a very moving story. It would be especially helpful for any of your kids who are dealing with the struggle to understand a grandparent who’s memory is slipping away. Even if that is not the case, and hopefully that is not happening in your family, you won’t want to miss this warm, touching book.
as told to Michelle Cuevas
I discovered this delightful book, because I was hunting for more books by Michelle Cuevas, after I read her magical book, The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles. I was so taken by the story, that I was hoping to find more like it and this chapter book didn’t disappoint. Jacques is eight years old and suspects that no one likes him. He is never chosen for the sports teams and even his parents have to be reminded by his sister to set his place at the table. So he’s feeling a little insecure when he meets a skating cowgirl on the school playground and she shares some astonishing news. Jacques is imaginary and so is she! In fact, the school playground is full of imaginary kids who have been forgotten by their human friends after they find a true person to be their buddy. You will be smiling throughout this book as Jacques meets many quirky, imaginary friends, as well as some fascinating real kids, but in the end learns that life is best, if you are yourself. Confessions of an Imaginary Friend can definitely be shared with your little ones as a read aloud, but your older kiddos will love it too.
by Kate Dicamillo
Raymie’s dad has run off with a dental hygienist and Raymie MUST win the Little Miss Florida Contest to insure his return. If she wins, he will realize just what he has left behind – a kind and talented girl (after all she IS going to learn how to twirl a baton) who is worth a lot more than the dental hygienist. However, Raymie has some competition and a few stumbling blocks in her summer plan, Louisiana Elefante and beautiful Beverly Tapinsky. They are determined to stop Raymie from achieving her goal, but as the summer progresses the three girls find themselves drawn together by loneliness, loss and their hope to save each other. This is a great book about friendship, which would make a wonderful read aloud with your elementary kids, or one for them to curl up with on their own.
Have you or your kids found some favorite new middle grade books? I’d love for you to share them in the comments!