Saturday, June 28, 2014

More for Middle Grades

This week I put together a personalized list for a girl going into sixth grade.  She is an eclectic reader so I collected titles from previous lists and added a few more.  Not one to let a list got to waste, I am adding those additions, with some modification, here so you can look at them as well.  Some have appeared in times past, but I don't think any have been shared recently.  If you see them repeated, you know that I must have truly enjoyed reading them.

Time Cat by Lloyd Alexander is a great story of time travel and history as seen through the treatment of cats in different time periods from ancient Egypt to the American Revolution. A boy wishes out loud that he could have nine lives like his cat.  The cat replies that he does not have nine lives but can travel to nine time periods and thus there travels begin. 
Gilda Joyce detective series by Jennifer Allison features a daring clever girl who solves light mysteries while struggling with the kinds of issues that face middle school girls.  I like the travel, the humor, and the insight into the lives of girls. 

The Naked Mole Rat Letters by Mary Amato features a young girl who is worrying that her father, with whom she lives, is going to get married while also worrying that he never will remarry. She finds odd letters coming to her father from a scientist who studies naked mole rats and tries to decide.  The scientist turns out to be a woman who is also a love interest for the father.  This is a clever and pleasant novel.  Besides, I find naked mole rats to be fascinating creatures.

Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson is historical fiction at its finest as it looks at the life of a girl living in Philadelphia when the yellow fever epidemic comes to town.  She must decide whether to save herself by leaving the city she has always called home or stay and care for others.  This is a great favorite both boys and girls in the middle grades, many of whom go on to read the non-fiction book about the same time called, An American Plague:  The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793  by Jim Murphy.  This is also a good starting point before going on to the more difficult topics  and mature writing found in other titles by Laurie Halse Anderson.

There are several good books by Joan Bauer that many middle grade readers will enjoy.  These include Peeled which is about a budding journalist in a high school that cares deeply about the apple orchards of the community when it comes to electing a queen of the Apple Festival but, with the rest of the area, do not see the threats from growth and development that are threatening the apple orchards.  Another good title is Sticks which is about a young boy who wants to be a pool champion and the interesting friends who help me. This is a great book for those kids with a mathematical bent as there are diagrams of the math involved in making a good shot on the pool table.  It is also good for those who care nothing about math but like quirky characters and interesting story lines.  Almost Home is about a mother and daughter who set up a friendly, homey restaurant in their new home town. 
The Return of the Twelves by Pauline Clarke was introduced to me when my children were young and we all were entranced by the story.  In modern England a family moves into a house on the moors near where the Bronte family once lived.  While exploring their attic they discover a box filled with small, tin soldiers, just like those that the Brontes had described in great detail as toys come to life.  Suddenly, these soldiers are seen moving and talking to each other.  When the children gain the confidence of the soldiers, they learn that these little men want to get to the Bronte museum and they want to march there by themselves.  Can the children help the twelve soldiers without being discovered by adults?  This is a great fantasy with literary underpinnings.

Getting Near to Baby by Audrey Couloumbis does the seemingly impossible by taking a very sad situation of two girls who are sent to stay with a childless aunt when their younger sister dies and their mother is overcome by the grief and mixing that with the humorous observations of the girls as they confront their confused aunt.  The girls climb on the rooftop to get near to baby and then talk about what is happening around them. It is a rare book that can make me laugh and cry in the same chapter, sometimes on the same page, but this is such a book. 
Toby Alone by Timothee de Fombelle has one of the least interesting covers I have ever seen and that drives me crazy because this environmental fantasy is well worth reading.  Toby is a small boy whose entire universe is in a tree.  There is an entire society there but things are going very wrong as greedy people come in and destroy homes, perhaps even the tree.  Toby must go in search for his father far beyond the area that they call home.  Along the way he learns about the disaster that seems to be about to befall the entire tree civilization.  Readers will be happy to learn that there is a sequel.

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper is an honest and moving look at the life of a girl with severe physical disabilities which not only confine her to a wheel chair but also wrack her body with spasms and leave her unable to speak.  As a result she has always gone to special education classrooms and no one realizes how brilliant she is until one caregiver realizes that she can communicate.  With help, an artificial speech machine is acquired and the young girl begins competing in Quiz Bowl type  events against other schools.  What happens next is exciting and heart wrenching. 

Tuesdays in the Castle by Jessica George begins a series about a royal family living in an enchanted castle that communicates with each of the children in special ways.  One thing it does is sprout new rooms and hallways that send a message.  This is very useful when the king and queen are kidnapped and only the royal children can save them with the help of the castle.

Pandora Gets...series by Carolyn Hennessy is a clever look at mythology and the story of Pandora.  Pandora and her friends behave like modern teen-agers as Pandora learns about each of the miseries found in her famous box, be it greed or envy or something else.  These are light and fun and very popular with girls this age.  These same girls will enjoy the Goddess Girls series by Joan Holub.

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanha Lai is written in verse form which just adds to its beauty, though it does intimidate some readers.  Give it a little time, though, and you will be drawn into this story of a young Vietnamese girl who is airlifted out of Saigon and then ends up living in the United States. She writes of the adjustment period, her memories of home, her struggles to fit in, and much more.  Some of it is humorous but most is poignant. 
Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye rings true to me as it tells of a girl who visits her father's family home in Palestine.  The girl herself was raised in mid-America and feels she has been ripped from everything familiar when she is taken half way around the world and must learn about this new home.  Having taken my girls to India to meet their grandparents, though never living there, I can relate to much of the confusion, love, and worry that abound in this book.  I had the pleasure of meeting Nye when she visited our school several years ago.  To have met such a friendly, fascinating, caring woman which makes the book even more special to me.

Bigger Than a Breadbox by Laurel Snyder tells of a girl who goes with her mother to live with the grandmother in another city.  The grandmother gives her a breadbox that has magic in it.  Whenever the girl wishes for something, that appears in the breadbox.  Not knowing of the magic, she wishes first for a pigeon since she misses the pigeons of Baltimore.  It takes several more wishes before she realizes that there is magic.  Then she starts wishes for things that she hopes will make her fit in with the girls at her new school.  Complications arise and many ethical questions have to be answered.  This is a great book for discussion, making it perfect for adult/child book clubs or parent/child sharing.




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