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!




Wishtree by Katherine Applegate – An Unforgettable Book

I love trees. Not just in this season when the colors are spectacular, but during any time of year. Even in the winter when all I can see are the stark outlines against the bleak sky. I love the shapes, the hollows and the way they bend in the wind. And I especially love the thought that so many creatures call trees home.

wishtree
Berentstain Bears Christmas Tree

When I do this, I can’t help but think of this page in Berenstain Bears Christmas Tree.  It’s fascinating to think that not only birds depend upon trees to hold their nests, but so many different animals do as well. Then of course, there are all of the reasons kids can tell us why we need to be grateful for trees; for the oxygen, for the shade in the summer and for the erosion that is prevented when their strong roots hold the earth in place. So, when I first heard that Katherine Applegate had written a new book called Wishtree, I thought it would be perfect for me. Until I read it recently, I had no idea how perfect it was

wishtree by katherine applegate – description

Trees can’t tell jokes, but they can certainly tell stories. . . .

Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood “wishtree”—people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red’s branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red’s hollows, this “wishtree” watches over the neighborhood.

You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red’s experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.

Review

You see, all through my childhood,  I have always imagined that the trees, the bugs, the animals were having conversations. I was absolutely certain about this. I am delighted to tell you that Wishtree confirms my beliefs! Wishtree is written from the point of view of Red (short for Red Oak), a 216 year old tree who has steadfastly witnessed, cared for and worried about his neighborhood. Not only has he always had great concern for all of the animals who called his giant branches and deep hollows home, he has also cared for the people who surrounded him everyday. He can tell stories about the baby who was left in one of his hollows to be found, loved and raised by his maiden owner. He can tell how his present owner (who doesn’t have a lot of love for him) is that maiden’s great granddaughter. He can tell how neighbors have come and gone and how many of those neighbors have immigrated from foreign countries. He can describe how they have all supported and loved one another with very little strife through the years, at least until now. Until a Muslim family moved into the neighborhood and everything changed. And finally he can tell how many years ago that maiden had tied a wish to his branches asking for “someone to love with all my heart” and from the simple act, Red had become known as the “Wishtree”.

This story is full compassion and humor, and as a bonus, lots of facts about animals I didn’t know! For example, did you know that animals who are active at twilight are called crespuscular animals? I certainly didn’t! 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. I hope you’ll share it with your kids and let me know how you all like it in the comments below.

Finally, be sure and visit The Wishtree website. Watch the amazing video and DEFINITELY leave a wish!




5 Books to Begin Middle School

It’s hard to believe that school will be starting very soon. I don’t know about you, but the summer has flown by! We’ve spent a lot of time in Michigan and we’ve had the oportunity to renew old friendships and spend lots of time with family and friends. We’ve tried to enjoy every minute and we’re tired, but very happy!

I know there are a lot of anxious kids out there who are ready to begin school. Maybe it’s a new school because of a move, maybe it’s new because it’s middle school or maybe it’s just a new grade. No matter the situation, it’s always reassuring to know that whatever you’re worried about or whatever you’re feeling, you’re not alone. These books do that! Your tween may identify with Tessa’s fear about starting a new school, with Macy’s concern about moving and having a new family, with Abbie Wu’s feeling that she’s “totally freaking out” or with Lucia and Elyse’s feelings when their best friends turn to someone new. The books are about courage, acceptance of differences and kindness. They are perfect for kids as they begin middle school, but will also be great for 4th and 5th graders. I hope your kids will find a new favorite that will give them just the courage they might need to begin a new school year.

Bubblesmiddle school

By Abby Cooper

  • Thanks to the @kidlitexchange network for the review copy of this book – all opinions are my own.

Sophie has been in mourning for four months, because four months ago she is certain she caused her mom to break up with her long time boyfriend, as well as lose her job. As a result, her mom either sits on the couch reading boring magazines or cries in her room, instead of sharing lots of adventures with Sophie as they’ve always done And now Sophie has a new problem. She sees speech bubbles, just like those in cartoons, above people’s heads. She can tell what everyone is thinking!

Here are some of the many reasons that this book is definitely a 5 star review!

 

♥Sophie’s strength and courage to share about the speech bubbles with her mom and her friends

♥Sophie’s courage to talk to her counselor about her life

♥Sophie’s courage to creatively tackle her problems.

♥Sophie relationships with the adults in the story

♥Sophie’s friendship with her two best friends

Bubbles shows upper elementary and middle schoolers that struggling with friendships and self confidence, is very normal and it’s okay to be sad once in awhile. As Sophie said “…a sad thought every so often didn’t mean a sad life.  …And as long as I have my friends and family with me…I’d never have to deal with any of these things alone.”

The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street

By Lindsay Currie

Thanks to the @kidlitexchange network and @lindsayncurrie for providing me with the review copy of this book – all opinions are my own. It will be released 10/10/17.

This is a story about ghosts, friendship, family and Chicago that I couldn’t stop reading! It is based upon a true story from Graceland Cemetery in Chicago and at first was really scary (at least for someone who NEVER reads ghost stories!). In fact I told my husband one evening that I had to stop reading or I’d never sleep! However, the mystery, the characters, the friendships and the great story had me quickly picking it up the next day. As more of the characters were revealed, and the more I learned about the ghost of the  little girl who was haunting Tessa (the strong, brave, resourceful and likeable main character) the more I wanted to quickly finish the book.  I know this is going to be a perfect story for all of those kids who ask for a scary book! And there are definitely a LOT of those kids in every library. But more importantly, this is a great choice for kids who are coping with middle school friendships, acceptance of a not so normal family or quirky friends.  5 stars for sure!

Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess

By Shari Green

Thank you to @Kidlit Exchange for telling me about this great new title!

Macy, who has been deaf since she had meningitis when she was four, is facing many challenges as she finishes up sixth grade. Her mom is getting married, they are preparing to move in with her new stepfather and his six year old twin girls, she isn’t speaking to her best friend, her mom is insisting she help with both the wedding AND her elderly neighbor’s moving preparations and she has a final sixth grade genealogy assignment to finish.  Shari Green tells Macy’s story in free verse, which I wasn’t sure I would like, but it turned out to be the perfect literary device. I loved reading about the relationship that unfolded between Macy and her neighbor, Iris, The Rainbow Goddess, as Macy helped her prepare to move into an assisted living facility. I loved this poignant book as Macy faced her challenges, and with Iris’s help, began to understand that “Hearts are waiting, worrying, hurting – in need of a message you can send.”

This is Shari Green’s second middle grade book. Now I can’t wait to read her first one, Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles!

Frazzled: Everyday disasters and impending doommiddle school

By Booki Vivat

When I was an elementary school librarian, I often heard the question “what book is like Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Big Nate?” Well I wish Frazzled, Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom was available a few years ago, because it would have been flying off the shelves! Frazzled is not a graphic novel, but is filled with illustrations on every page, which makes it into a very inviting book for even reluctant middle grade readers. Frazzled tells Abbie Wu’s story about starting middle school and how she is “totally freaking out.” She is the middle child in her family and she isn’t brilliant and cool like her older brother or cute and adorable like her little sister. She is just Abbie who is struggling to find “her thing.” Will it be drama club like her best friend Maxine who has wanted to be an actress since third grade, or possibly the coding club like her friend Logan who has always been a whiz with puzzles? Or maybe cooking, or dance or sports? The trouble is is that Abbie is terrible at all of these and couldn’t be less interested. This book will both entertain your middle grader, as well as reassure anyone who is dreading the transition to middle school. In the end, Abbie decides maybe she’s not “100% doomed!” and you find yourself hoping that September 26th comes very quickly so that you can read the next installment about Abbie Wu!

Moon Shadowmiddle school

By Erin Downing

This fantasy is all about Lucia who was born during a lunar eclipse. As the story opens, it is her thirteenth birthday and the night of the next lunar eclipse. Her mother insists that this will be a very special evening for Lucia, but all Lucia cares about is trying to get her best friend back, trying to be friends with the boy next door again and learning to cope with her parents’ divorce. However, something very mysterious happens to Lucia. As the moon passes through the shadow of the earth and Lucia falls asleep, Lucia’s shadow appears. It turns out Lucia’s shadow only makes itself known while Lucia sleeps, but the shadow’s behavior is very different from Lucia. Lucia’s shadow has a lot more confidence and courage than Lucia, which leads to some interesting situations. This story was intriguing and I didn’t want to stop reading! Although, older kids would fly through this, I recommend it to anyone looking for a magical, mystical book for their next read.

 

These are just five of my most recent favorites that will help your fourth grader, your fifth grader or your middle schooler find the courage to face the challenges of a new school year. Do you have any more to add to the list? Please let us know in the comments. Finally, I wish you and your family a great start to the new school year!