School’s out! The kids are thrilled and hopefully you are, as well. After all, you have a little more down time, a few less lunches to make and more time to enjoy your children. Personally, I am loving the warmer weather, the sunshine (finally!), the lush green trees, the flowers and the freedom to walk out the door without a jacket. I’m spending a lot more time reading books, both children’s and adult, rather than reading the internet (although I’m not sure why!), trying new recipes and basically enjoying life. I guess there’s just something about the open windows and summer breezes that energizes me. My reading has led me to five middle grade chapter books that I want to share with you. I hope your kids will enjoy them as much as I did! You might even want to add them to your TBR list, too!
middle grade books: harlem charade by Natasha Tarpley
Are you looking for a good mystery for your middle grade reader that will pull them into the story from the first page? This might be the one! Harlem Charade, set in the diverse streets of Harlem, has many twists and turns. The main characters, Elvin, Alex and Jin, who are each struggling with problems at home, work together to solve the mystery behind the attack on Elvin’s grandfather. Could the attack be a part of the councilman’s plan to shut down the local family businesses and force everyone to move out to make room for Harlem World? The story helps the reader understand both the meaning of, and the repercussions of gentrification, as the kids work together to solve the mystery and save their neighborhood. This is an action packed story that keeps the reader guessing until the end. I highly recommend it!
MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS: short BY holly goldberg sloan
I was looking forward to reading the new book by the author of one of my favorite middle grade reads from the past few years, Counting by 7s, and I wasn’t disappointed. Julia is struggling with several obstacles as she begins summer vacation. She’s the smallest in her class, by far, her best friends are gone for the summer, and she is mourning the loss of her beloved dog, Ramon, her closest friend and buddy, who suddenly curled up and died unexpectedly of a heart attack. To give Julia something to focus on, her mom registers her and her little brother to appear in the community production of The Wizard of Oz. Of course, much to her horror, Julia is cast as a Munchkin.
I immediately identified with Julia’s grief, which she tries to keep inside, because I have lost so many dogs through the years, and it’s very difficult. And I had the opposite problem about size – I was always the tallest in my class, which is equally horrifying! So I was pulled in from page 1!
I especially loved Julia’s relationships that develop with the adults in the story: her neighbor, Mrs. Chang, the director of the play, her parents and her fellow actors. They showed her so much respect, support and understanding throughout the summer, which helped Julia deal with her grief and improve her self confidence.
This book certainly pulled at my “mom heart strings”! I wanted to hug Steffy and Nina and protect them from the unfairness of their world. They have been happily living with their aunt Gina since their mom’s traumatic brain injury in an auto accident and their dad’s subsequent abandonment, which is almost as long as they can remember. But now their dad is coming home and their beloved aunt is moving out. This poignant tale tells the story of how each of the girls deal with the situation, Steffy by cooking and Nina by dancing, how they are forced to grow up far too early and how they learn that sometimes you need to rewrite your family’s recipe, even though it may be far different than you hoped.
Derby, her brother and her dad lead a vagabond life. They travel the country hauling their rambler to ball parks and fairgrounds selling hamburgers and fries. But every summer, they can’t resist returning to Ridge Creek, Virginia, for the Rockskippers season, a minor league baseball team.. They’ve been spending every summer there as long as Derby can remember, and their many friends always look forward to their return. I admired Derby’s strength as she tells the story of missing her mom who walked out years ago, her determination to find a way to help her dearest friend in Ridge Creek and her struggle to understand what home truly means. As her dear friend, June, tells her, “Your home has wheels, but your heart has roots right here.” This is really a winner!
BY michele weber hurwitz
I don’t usually post things twice, but I think this book warrants breaking that rule! I’m hoping a lot of people who didn’t see it last summer, or may have forgotten, will see it today. Now that school is out for your kids, or very nearly so, the search for a special book begins. This would be a great one to read first!
Nina is spending her summer between middle school and high school pretty much on her own. Her parents, both lawyers, go to work early and return late, her older brother is always busy, her best friend has discovered boys and only wants to talk about clothes and makeup and Nina’s beloved grandma has died. So Nina spends a lot of her day in her room looking at all of the houses in her cul-de-sac. On the first day of summer she watches her next door neighbor, Mrs. Chung, who lives by herself, struggling to plant her garden full of marigolds as she always does, even though she has a broken leg. After Mrs. Chung gives up and goes inside, Nina remembers something her favorite teacher told the class on the last day of school. He said, “It is very often the ordinary things that go unnoticed that make a difference.” At that moment, Nina comes up with a plan that will change her summer and change her neighbors’ summers, as well. Nina decides to do something unnoticed every day for the 65 days of summer and see if she can really make a difference. This is an inspiring story for a beginning of summer middle grade book for kids going into fourth grade and older. Maybe we could all decide to do something ordinary and unnoticed for someone for one day or for 65 days this summer and see if it makes a difference. I’ll bet it does!
Do your kids have some books to suggest? Please let us all know in the comments.