My Favorite Middle Grade Books of 2017

For the past two years, during the month of December, I have shared book titles for you to add to your shopping list for the children in your lives.  This year, I have decided to take a different approach. This month, I plan to share lists of my favorite picture books and my favorite middle grade books published this year. It’s going to be  a difficult task, because I’ve loved so many! I do want to say, however, that there are many books from the past that would make wonderful gifts, as well. I’ve written about these titles in many additions of “Kids’ Books to Remember”. I hope you’ll check those out, as well!

Kids’ Books to Remember, Number 6

Kids’ Books to Remember Number 19

Kids’ Books to Remember Number 17

We’ll begin this week with my favorite middle grade books from 2017. I’ve written a short description about each book and linked the title to my blog post or Instagram post where you will find my complete review. I’m also including the subjects of each book, as well as a link to the Good Reads summary. Many of these books offer both “windows and mirrors” to the reader. The stories offer both a window to help us understand the characters’ experiences  and a mirror to many of us who might be dealing with some of the same issues. It’s always reassuring to know that you’re not alone in your feelings and experiences, as well as to develop empathy for those around you.

 favorite middle grade booksThings that surprise you

Good Reads – Things that Surprise You

By Jennifer Maschari 

Emily is about to begin middle school and is feeling all of the usual angst that goes along with that. However, she’s also trying to adjust to her parents’ divorce, her older sister’s absence due to the fact that she’s in residential care for her eating disorder and her best friend’s decision to try new things with lots of new friends.

 Middle School adjustments, divorce, friendship, eating disorders

favorite middle gradehalfway Normal

Good Reads – Halfway Normal

By Barbara Dee 

Norah Levy desperately wants to be a normal middle schooler, but she’s just returning to seventh grade after missing two years for cancer treatments. Add to that, her parents have laid out a huge list of crazy rules (in her opinion) to keep her rested and germ free, some of her friends are acting like she might break and some are jealous of the special treatment she’s receiving.

Middle school adjustment, cancer, friendship, family

favorite middle grade booksshort

Good Reads – Short

By Holly Goldberg Sloan

Julia is struggling with several obstacles as she begins summer vacation. 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.

Friendship, dwarfism, mourning a pet, multigenerational

favorite middle grade booksme and Marvin Gardens

Good Reads – Me and Marvin Gardens

By Amy Sarig King

Obe is struggling with a lot of things in his life. The only good part of his life, is his friend, Annie, and a mysterious animal he discovered down by the creek. He’s not quite sure about Marvin, who might be part pig, is definitely not a dog and eats plastic, But he knows he’s something very special. 

Friendship, family

 

favorite middle grade bookswishtree

Good Reads – Wishtree

By Katherine Applegate

This story is full compassion and humor, and as a bonus, lots of facts about animals I didn’t know!  Most importantly, it’s about kindness to people and animals, even if they are different than we are. And it’s one of the best read alouds for the ENTIRE family that I have read this year.

Kindness, animals, diversity, family read aloud

 

great middle grade booksThe peculiar incident on shady street

Good Reads – The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street

By Lindsay Currie

This is a story about ghosts, friendship, family and Chicago that I couldn’t stop reading! This is a great choice for kids who are coping with middle school friendships, acceptance of their not so normal family or quirky friends.

Bravery, friendships, middle school adjustments, moving, acceptance of differences

favorite middle grade booksthe vanderbeekers of 141st street

Good Reads – The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

By Karina Yan Glasser

This is a story about community, diversity, city living and love. It’s a perfect read aloud for the entire family. I highly recommend gathering all the kids, whatever age, cuddling up under a fuzzy blanket and reading this delightful story together. Especially recommended for Penderwick lovers!

Family Read, Families, Kindness, Communities, Diversity, City Living, 

 

favorite middle grade booksMacy Mcmillan and the rainbow goddess

Good Reads – Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess

By Shari Green

This free verse story is about Macy, who has been deaf since she had meningitis when she was four, and the many challenges she is facing as she finishes sixth grade.  I loved this poignant book as Macy faced her challenges, and with her elderly neighbor’s help, began to understand that “Hearts are waiting, worrying, hurting – in need of a message you can send.”

Families, multigrenerational

 

The Unlikely story of a pig in the city

Good Reads – The Unlikely Story of a Pig in a City

By Jodi Kendall

This is a charming story about family, friendship, teamwork and of course, animals. Josie is one of five children in a loving, lively family living in a small townhouse in an Ohio city who often feels overlooked. When her brother brings home a piglet on Thanksgiving, the runt of the litter from a nearby farm, Josie falls in love and knows in her heart that she was meant to save Hamlet. This is another great family read aloud and a special one for Charlotte’s Web fans and Penderwick fans!

Families, city living, friendship, animals, family read aloud

middle grade booksVilonia beefe takes charge

Good Reads – Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge

By Kristin L. Gray

This story will have you laughing out loud, but will also leave you in tears. It’s a wonderful book about kindness, thoughtfulness, resourcefulness and family.  This is the first middle grade book I’ve read that addresses depression and describes the effects that it can have on the entire family.

Humor, kindness, thoughtfulness, family, mourning a grandparent, depression

 

middle grade booksKat greene comes clean

Good Reads – Kat Greene Comes Clean

By Melissa Roske

Kat is a sixth grader who is dealing with so much in her life, but she is also very fortunate to be surrounded by lots of caring and supportive people, both children and adults. She bravely deals with the repercussions of her mom’s cleaning OCD as she faces the changing friendships of sixth grade.

Bravery, compassion, friendship, flexibility, OCD

 

middle grade booksKarma Khullar’s Mustache

Good Reads – Karma Khullar’s Mustache

By Kristi Wientge

Karma, who is half Sikh, half Methodist has lost her dear dadima (grandma) who lived with and cared for her family, her dad has lost his job, her mom has gone from being home and always available for Karma, to working full time in a very demanding job. Add to all of that Karma’s best friend has decided to be friends with her new “mean girl” neighbor and the fact that Karma has suddenly sprouted a 17 hair mustache, means Karma couldn’t be more nervous about middle school.

Adjustment to middle school, diversity, mourning a grandparent, friendship, family

middle grade booksgreetings from witness protection

Good Reads – Greetings from Witness Protection

By Jake Burt

Nikki (Charlotte) has never known her mother, her dad’s in prison and her grammy has died so she’s in “the system”. But suddenly she is given an unexpected choice – remain at the children’s home for her next foster placement or become the daughter of a family entering witness protection. She proves herself to be a loyal friend, a great problem solver and a caring daughter as she grows more accustomed to her new life.
I would highly recommend this for grades 5 – 8. There is so much adventure, as well as so much heart in this story, that it will appeal to everyone. I couldn’t put it down!

Adventure, family, friendship, adjustment to middle school

There were so many more, but I’m trying not to completely overwhelm you! If you need more suggestions, please check out my Instagram account.  I’ll be back soon with my favorite picture books of 2017. Have a great week!




New Middle Grade Books You’ll Want to Read Soon

I’ve been absorbed in reading kid lit lately, especially new middle grade books. I learn about the titles by following publishers, following The Nerdy Book Club blog, being a part of Kid Lit Exchange and following many, many kid lit lovers on Instagram. If you’re looking for recommendations for picture books, middle grade books or YA, you’ll learn so much from these sources! I hope you’ll like these new middle grade books as much as I did!

middle grade booksThe Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

By Karina Yan Glaser @karinaisreadingandwriting

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Many thanks to the author for sharing a copy of this book with @KidLitExchange for review! All opinions are my own.

I just finished this book and I immediately fell in love with the Vanderbeeker family on the first page! I want to slip right into their cozy Harlem brownstone and join one of their rousing neighborhood get-togethers. I loved every member of this caring family from Laney, the 4 ¾ year old who goes through life handing out huge hugs, to 6 year old creative animal lover Hyacinth, to 9 year old book loving Oliver, to 12 year old twins, Isa and Jessie, and of course mom and dad. This is a story about community, diversity, city living and love. It’s a perfect read aloud for the entire family. I highly recommend gathering all the kids, whatever age, cuddling up under a fuzzy blanket and reading this delightful story together. It’s also a great read aloud for any elementary classroom. You’ll find yourself yearning for a large caring family, lots of caring neighbors and wishing you could move to 141st Street in Harlem! And happily, you’ll get to visit them with again next year when another story about the Vanderbeekers is published. I can’t wait!

Read Aloud for all ages; Families; Kindness; Communities; Diversity; City Living, 

Karma Khullar’s Mustachemiddle grade books

By Kristi Wientge

Thanks to the author for sharing a copy of this book with @Kid Lit Exchange for review! All opinions are my own.

I have read several middle grade books this summer which describe the growing pains that kids go through as they begin middle school. Although it was a very long time ago, I certainly remember how hard it was for me. The school boundaries required that my lifelong friend attend another junior high along with most of our friends, while I had to start fresh. I thought my world was ending, just as Karma feels in this story. However, Karma is dealing with more than going to a new school. Karma, who is half Sikh, half Methodist has lost her dear dadima (grandma) who lived with and cared for her family, her dad has lost his job and is now the stay-at-home parent struggling with learning to cook and do laundry, her teenage brother is constantly fighting with her parents and her mom has gone from being home and always available for Karma, to working full time in a very demanding job. Add to all of that Karma’s best friend has decided to be friends with her new “mean girl” neighbor AND the fact that Karma has suddenly sprouted a 17 hair mustache, means Karma couldn’t be more nervous about middle school.

This 5 Star story seamlessly shows that the struggles in Karma’s household are just the same as those in so many American families. It truly provides a mirror to kids, as well as a window to others.  This is a good choice for grade 4 and up and is a “must buy” addition for all libraries!

MIddle School; Diversity; Grief; Friendship; Family

middle grade booksReal Friends

By Shannon Hale and Leuyen Pham

Truthfully, I’m normally not fond of graphic novels, but I loved this middle grade story! The artwork is truly amazing, and the fact that there were just  4 – 6 panels on each page with a small amount of text in each one, will help even a reluctant reader fly through the book.

This heartfelt memoir of Shannon Hale’s grade school years will have you laughing, but will also tug at your heart. For any of you who spent those years searching for that one special friend who would always be there for you, this will bring back so many memories. It helps the reader understand that real friends don’t treat you badly. Happily, it will also show young readers that it’s possible to survive the trials of elementary school friendships, and in the process perhaps find the courage to stand up for yourself and be kind to others.

It would be a great read aloud in a grade school classroom or a shared read with your child. It would help to open up so many conversations about friendship. This is definitely a 5 star book!

Friendship; Kindness; Graphic Novel

Greetings from Witness Protectionmiddle grade books

By Jake Burt

Many thanks to @kidlitexchange network for sharing this book for review. All opinions are my own.

Nikki (Charlotte) has never known her mother, her dad’s in prison and her grammy has died so she’s in “the system”. So far she has bounced from foster home to foster home with five stops along the way. She also has another problem. When she is nervous she picks the pocket of anyone within arm’s length. She just can’t help herself! But suddenly she is given an unexpected choice – remain at the children’s home waiting for her next foster placement or become the daughter of a family entering witness protection. After she is given ten minutes to decide, she says yes! Nikki immediately leaves “Nikki of New York City” behind and becomes “Charlotte Trevor who is moving from Ohio to Durham, North Carolina”. For the first time in her life, she has a mother, a father, a brother AND her own turret shaped room in a historical house on a tree lined street. She is actually part of a family and her only job is to do her part to keep them safe; a job she takes very seriously.

This book is full of adventure, middle school issues, and lots of love. I really admired Charlotte’s strength as she did her very best to follow all of the rules issued by the U.S. Marshalls and there were a LOT of rules. She proves herself to be a loyal friend, a great problem solver and a caring daughter as she grows more accustomed to her new life. Her calm demeanor, her sense of humor and her vigilance helps her entire family face their very frightening situation.  

I would highly recommend this for grades 5 – 8. There is so much adventure, as well as so much heart in this story, that it will appeal to everyone. We can only hope that there will be another book about Charlotte coming soon!

Courage; Adventure; Middle School; Family; Foster Children

middle grade booksVilonia Beebe Takes Charge

By Kristin L. Gray

Vilonia is a star of her “under 10” softball team, an animal rescuer, a school library helper, a good friend, a sister, a daughter and a granddaughter. At least she was a granddaughter until 43 days earlier when her beloved grandma dropped dead. And since that time Vilonia’s mother has been hiding in her room with the blinds drawn and spending much of her day in her pajamas. So since that day Vilonia has added cooking, laundry and obituary writing (her mom’s job) to her list of chores. She is doing her very best to help her mom, so that maybe she will learn to smile again.

This story will have you laughing out loud, but will also leave you in tears. It’s a wonderful book about kindness, thoughtfulness, resourcefulness and family. Vilonia is such a sweet caring girl who is trying her best to understand her mom’s illness. This is the first middle grade book I’ve read that addresses depression and describes the effects that it can have on the entire family. It doesn’t go into depth, but reading this story with your kids, or as a read aloud, will definitely provide an opportunity to begin some conversations. It will certainly help those kids who find themselves in a similar position. I highly recommend it to parents, teachers and elementary librarians. It’s a must for the shelves of every elementary library!

Families; Courage; Kindness; Clinical Depression; Grief

Kat Greene Comes Cleanmiddle grade books

By Melissa Roske

Illustrated by Nathan Durfee

Where do I begin to tell you about this wonderful book? Kat is a sixth grader who is dealing with so much in her life, but she is also very fortunate to be surrounded by lots of caring and supportive people, both children and adults. She is also a girl I so admired. Kat shows strength, compassion, bravery and flexibility throughout the story. I admired her relationship with her divorced parents, as well as her stepmother and her respect for her school counselor, Olympia. I admired her courage when she confided in her best friend, Halle, concerning her worries about her mother’s cleaning OCD, when she finally approached Olympia with her problems and when she tried to discuss the OCD issue with her mom. I admired her courage when she told her dad about her mom’s problem, although she was sure that it would mean moving in with her dad, far away from her friends. I admired Kat’s loyalty to her mom, even when her mom humiliated her in front of her classmates with her cleaning and germ obsessions. I admired her strength when she apologized to her best friend and tried to solve their friendship problems. And finally, I admired her flexibility when she moved into a bedroom with her three year old brother at her dad’s apartment, while her mom attended counseling. Each of these situations is so challenging, and is especially so to a sixth grader, but Kat kept going.

And finally don’t miss the amazing cover by Nathan Durfee! I loved searching for all of the surprises hidden away in every detail.

This is a book that needs to be in every elementary and middle school library and should be on every school psychologist’s bookshelf.  I highly recommend it to grades 4 – 8.

Courage; Families; Divorce; OCD; Friendship; Middle School

 

What are some new Middle Grade books you have discovered this fall? Please let us all know in the comments below!

 




Kids’ Books to Remember and Some Links for Mom and Dad

It’s hard for me to believe that it is October! The leaves are beginning to change and thankfully we’re having some cool nights, which are perfect for curling up with your favorite book. We are finally back home after our dream trip of visiting FIVE National Parks and driving over 4500 miles!! It was an amazing adventure, but it feels good to be back home, too. I’m very hopeful that I’ll be talking with you on a much more regular schedule now that our lives have quieted down. I’m beginning that conversation, by once again sharing some kids’ books to remember in the hope that you’ll find some to add to your library list. Maybe you’ll discover some new favorites, or one you might have forgotten from your own childhood.

kids’ books to remember: read aloudskids' books to remember

Anna Hibiscus by Antinuk

Four stories about Anna and her West African family as Anna spends her time splashing in the ocean, searching for shells and dreaming of one time seeing snow.

Catwings Return by Ursela K. Le Guin

This is part of the magical series about four cats who use their wings to escape the city.

Lady Lollipop by Dick King Smith

Another book from the author of Babe.

From the publisher’s summary: “Lollipop is no ordinary pig. According to her young trainer, Johnny Skinner, she’s the smartest pig in the entire kingdom. When people stare into Lollipop’s bright, intelligent eyes, it somehow changes them for the better.”

kids’ books to remember: picture bookskids' books to remember

What a Wonderful World by George David Weiss and Bob Thiele; illustrated by Ashley Bryan

This beautifully illustrated book brings us a needed reminder about all of the small things in life that help to make our lives truly wonderful.

Time for Bed by Mem Fox

An endearing bedtime story which is perfect for all ages.

Youpala, Queen of the Jungle by Youpala and illustrated by Zau

kids’ books to remember: middle grade chapter books

kids' books to rememberEach Little Bird that Sings by Deborah Wiles

This is a charming story of a 10 year old girl’s struggles as she deals with the changes in her life in a small Mississippi town.

Alabama Moon by Watt Key

Alabama Moon is a true adventure story.

Hank Zipper: The Curtain Went Up, My Pants Fell Down by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver

This is part of a hillarious series based upon Henry Winkler’s struggles in school as he was growing up. It will engage even the most reluctant reader.

 LINKS FOR MOM AND DAD

If you’re wondering how you might best help your kids this school year, just read this inspiring post.

The Lunchbox Note and storytelling: lifetime lessons

This is a great list of diverse books for your middle grader reader.

Middle Grade Books with Latino Characaters

If you have a Penderwick series fan in your house, here’s special book you need to immediately add to your library hold list!

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

I wish you all a wonderful week! Thank you for inviting me into your inbox and into your world.