Tag Archives: middle grade monday

Middle Grade March Wrap-up – Part 1

Over the month of March, I decided to try and read a lot of middle grade. It was inspired by a lot of Booktubers who were doing similar, but also by the first book I finished in the month, All The Ways Home by Elise Chapman (which I keep hinting at and there will be a review closer to its release). Split into two posts, I thought it would be fun to share with you all the middle grade reads I checked out and some quick thoughts. I ended up reading six books, but will only be discussing five between the two posts.

The War I Finally Won
(The War That Saved My Life #2)
by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

I ADORED the first book in this series, but if I am being honest, I don’t feel like Ada’s story necessarily needed a continuation. This sequel has Ada and her brother Jamie with a legal guardian while World War II rages on. This is a hard one to talk about if you’ve never read the first book (which I highly recommend you do), but this one was a surpisingly slow sequel where I feel like it took its sweet time to get to the story it truly wanted to tell. I gave the first book a five star when I read it, but this one wasn’t the same spark for me. 3.5/5 Stars

The Golden Door
(The Three Doors Trilogy #1)
by Emily Rodda

I wanted to love this book so badly and I had a hard time with it. It’s likely more me than the book because I’ve been in such a weird fantasy slump and just not picking up fantasy books that spark joy in me. This one is such an old school sword, sorcery and dragon story for a middle grade audience and its fabulous in that regard for making that old school genre accessible. I thought the plot was very D&D and the characters just didn’t excite me. However, having since read it, I have recommended it a lot at work, especially for reluctant male readers! But yeah, this sadly wasn’t a hit for me. 2.5/5 Stars

To Night Owl from Dogfish
by Holly Goldberg Sloan &  Meg Wolitzer

A friend of mine described To Night Owl from Dogfish as “The Gap Parent Trap” and it 100% is. This addictive little book about two girls going away to a sleepover camp while trying to keep their dads in a relationship so that they get to become sisters is both funny, heartbreaking, and just charming all around. Avery and Bett will make you grin from ear to ear that’s how wonderful this story was. I think about it a lot and how much fun I had reading it, or how much I thought Bett’s grandmother was just the absolute best grandmother in a book ever. This sweet contemporary book knocked my socks off and I hope more folks check it out. 5/5 Stars

That’s it for part one! I hope you stay tuned because on Friday, I’ll share the other two wonderful reads I checked out for Middle Grade March!

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Five Middle Grade Novels You Should Read This Summer

I realize we are already halfway through the summer, and my goodness does time fly! During the summer there are two genres that I really gravitate towards: contemporary and middle grade. While I do think middle grade is always best enjoyed all year round, I find I read a lot of it during the summer. There’s something about falling into a story where there’s an adventure, there’s still a sense of innocence, and I feel like that is just something I can always connect with.

Today, I thought I’d share with you all five middle grade novels I think would be great to check out this summer.

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The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall

I am convienced that this is THE summer middle grade series to read. Every adventure that Rosalind, Skye, Jane and Batty have are always such a delight, and Birdsall does an amazing job of evoking a level fo genuiness with this series. While I haven’t read Penderwicks in the Spring yet, I can definitely attest to what an easy, breezy, enjoyable read this series is. Seriously, Batty alone will make you smile, I promise.

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Tru & Nelle by G. Neri

This is a novel that looks at the historical relationship between Truman Capote and Harper Lee. Majority fo this novel takes place during a hot summer in Alabama, and it depicts a beautiful friendship, while also tackling issues of segregation. There’s a lot of heart and soul in this story that just made me smile. It’s the perfect middle grade to bust out the iced tea and sit outside and devour.

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The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester

This book and its sequel The Boy Who Knew Everything are amazing books that I will never ever shut up about. These are fast-paced fantasy novels that star children with extraordinary abilities. This series is incredibely clever, very imaginative, and it offers a lot of fun and exitment while also exploring issues of difference and identity in a wonderful way. READ THESE BOOKS, YO.

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The Hamster Princess series by Ursula Vernon

Part novel, part comic, Hamster Princess is simply amazeballs. Hilarious, quicky, this series will make you laugh so hard that you cry. Harriet is a delight and she knows she needs know prince charming to be a kick butt rogue princess. With two books so far in the series, there’s just way too much fun to be had with this series, and these make for great, quick summer reads!

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The Hook’s Revenge series
by Heidi Schulz

PIRATES! Pirates are totally summery, right? Get ready for some crazy adventures on the high seas with  Jocelyn, daughter of the infamous Captain James Hook. This book is about becoming the kind of person you want to be, fighting to be recognized, and knowing that you can really achieve anything you set your mind to, Great humour, awesome messages, and just plain fun. Now I just need to remember to read book two!

And those are my five picks for some great summer middle grade books. I am always looking for great middle grade recommendations, so if you have any, please consider sharing with me! 🙂

Three Middle Grade Authors I Discovered in 2015

2015 has been a great year of a reading for me. While I’m almost at four hundred books on my Goodreads goal (with half of those being comics and graphic novels, let’s not kid ourselves), I’ve discovered a lot of great new reads, and some authors who I’m now working through their entire back catalogue. Here’s a few of the writers I discovered in 2015.
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Susin Nielson
I had the pleasure of being sent a copy of “We Are All Made of Molecules” for review back in the Spring, and I loved it. It was my first exposure to Nielson’s writing outside of Degrassi, and I just found myself loving how open and honest her portrayal of families was. Since then, I’ve now read “Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mother” and “Word Nerd,” both which I found to be equally fantastic. Nielson really knows how to make her readers laugh, and the humour is simply genuine.
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Jacqueline Woodson
Like many recent converts, the book that hooked me to Woodson’s writing was “Brown Girl Dreaming.” After reading that book, it’s easy to see why it won every award ever and how it teaches so much about racism, inequality, youth, family and friendship. Woodson’s style is easy to engage with, it’s both beautiful as it is powerful, and I’ll admit I’ve enjoyed many of her other novels since “Brown Girl Dreaming.” If I could recommend any others by her, I’d say “Locomotion” and “From the Notebook of Melenin Sun” would definitely be up there.
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Jennifer L. Holm
My darling middle grade book pusher and confidant Vikki VanSickle introduced me to the works of Jennifer L. Holm with “The Fourteenth Goldfish,” which was simply delightful. I also took out “Sunny Side Up” her recent graphic novel that she collaborated on with her brother, and equally found that to be an engaging read. Jennifer L. Holm’s books read like they are a comfortable blanket — simple on the surface, but more complex as you unravel the blanket. I definitely plan on checking out more of her books, especially her acclaimed Babymouse series.
And with that, I want you guys to recommend me some middle grade for my 2016 TBR! What are some titles I could look into? Who are some authors worth discovering? Let me know in the comments.

Five Middle Grade Reads to Devour in the Winter

Fall is almost over, and winter is going to be settling in very soon. I find Fall and Spring are when I read the most middle grade, and I think it has to do with the weather and events that are going on in a middle grader’s life. Fall always signifies the end of summer, so it’s back to school, back to reality. Spring signifies birth and new life, and for a lot of middle graders it’s a time for change and the end of the school year. I thought I’d share a few of my recent middle grade faves with you all and while you should cozy up with them come winter.

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The Boy Who Knew Everything by Victoria Forester

This was easily one of my favourite reads in October. This book is such an intense read, and Forester’s writing is so easy to fall in love with. The characters in this story are just wonderfully crafted and it’s easy to root for them. This book even has a few twists and turns that I admit, I didn’t even see coming. While it’s a chunky book (over 400 pages!), it’s one that if you get yourself a nice large cup of tea, you’ll devour in no time.

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The Year of Shadows by Claire Legrand

My other favourite middle grade read from October. This book is dark, humourous, and delightful. It’s about ghosts, family, and striving to preserve the things that matter most in your life. Plus it has a talking cat! The characters are fantastic in this story, and they are so funny. Olivia is easily a heroine who will steal your heart. Perfect for fall, especially around Halloween.

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The Wrinkled Crown
by Anne Nesbet

This was my first Anne Nesbet novel, and I’m definitely going to be checking out more of her books now. This book screams fall read, from it’s gorgeous cover, to the musical contents inside. This book reads very old school fantasy, so it also has the appeal for adult fantasy fans as well. Linny is a great heroine — she’s smart, inquisitive, and she will put a huge smile on your face. Plus there’s twins! Mismatched twins no less! Again, this book is great for those cold fall nights where you want to be whisked away to parts unknown.

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The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands

I’ve said before and I’ll say it again: Percy Jackson ain’t got nothing on The Blackthorn Key. Nothing against good old Percy, but I feel like this book deserves more praise and buzz just because it’s such an intelligent middle grade read. Not only does it encourage middle graders to solve puzzles and decode them, but our heroes in this book are just so damn awesome. I devoured this book back in the summer, and it’s one of those reads where I feel like if you go in not knowing much about it, the ride will be so much more rewarding. Seriously, check this one out.

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Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

This book made me cry in public. I was reading it on the bus and it just destroyed me. It’s a book that focuses on the power of imagination and how to combat homelessness. It asks readers to consider what happens when you lose nearly everything — how do you carry on? Crenshaw the Cat will steal your heart and remind you that life is still worth living and that even the tough stuff can be dealt with if you have a little bit of faith. This book is fantastic for those who love having strong, emotional connections to characters.

So these are some of my recent favourite fallish middle grade readers. What are some of yours? Please let me know in the comments some of your new favourites!

Middle Grade Monday – LGBT Issues in Middle Grade

This is the first time I am attempting Middle Grade Monday, as I was encouraged by my dear friend Vikki VanSickle. We discuss middle grade a lot, and I always appreciate Vikki’s recommendations when she finds a new middle grade novel to squee over. I thought for my first post for this Middle Grade Monday, I’d look at a topic that has kind of hit me in the face recently, and that is LGBT representation in middle grade fiction, particularly in the books We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen (2015) and From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun
by Jacqueline Woodson (1995).

19405297One thing that I found interesting about both We Are All Made of Molecules and From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun was the approach to the protagonists having homosexual parents. In We Are All Made of Molecules, Ashley’s father comes out as being gay and end ups moving outside the family home and into the guest house in the backyard. Ashley spends a lot of the novel struggling with he father’s newfound sexual identity and blames him for the divorce because of this. Interestingly, Stewart, Ashley’s step-brother, is the one who ends up be-friending Ashley’s father, ultimately treating him as though his sexual preference shouldn’t matter. It’s an interesting parallel in the novel, as Ashley worries frequently that her classmates are going to find out about her gay father and start treating her like she’s a “gay lover.”

I could empathize with Ashley in this situation, even if I didn’t agree with her behaviour. She spends a lot of the novel questioning if she’s going to be come “like him” and feels as though because her father is gay, her social world is completely over. She blames him for everything going wrong in her life because she cannot accept that her parents aren’t together anymore, and that her father is a gay man. It’s interesting, therefore that it’s Stewart who forges a relationship first with Ashley’s father — but Stewart being an outcast in the story I feel is why their connection is so instantaneous, Stewart has nothing to judge Ashley’s father on and therefore is able to listen and share his feelings in an honest and open way. What I loved even more in We Are All Made of Molecules is how long it takes Ashley to befriend her father again. It felt very realistic given the situation and how long it takes her to learn to accept others (including Stewart), and it makes for some wonderful character development.

Similarly, I read From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun by Jacqueline Woodson, a book that was 8285986already tackling what We Are All Made of Molecules did back in 1995. In Woodson’s novel, Melanin Sun’s mother also has a sexual awakening and attempts to tell her twelve year old son that she is a lesbian who happens to be in love with a white woman. Melanin has so much angry towards her mother, stating that she has ruined their family by not essentially being hetrosexual. Moreover, he outright asks his mother why she can’t “be like everyone else,” making the assumption that everyone is hetrosexual. What I loved in this particular novel is that Woodson doesn’t shy away from the topic, but she still fuses strong family values into the narrative as her way of approaching the topic. Melanin thinks that because his mother is a lesbian that there is something wrong with his family, that she won’t love him anymore, and that he might “become gay.” The resolving conversation is what won me over in this novel, as his mother states that gay or straight, love is love and it shouldn’t matter who Melanin Sun wants to become in his life and that you shouldn’t be constrained to your sexual identity. Since Melanin and Mama grew up in a single family household, he has a harder time accepting Kristin, his mother’s lover because she is a white privileged woman. He even goes as far to say “What would people think of a black woman dating a white woman?” to which Mama states that “it shouldn’t matter.” However, Melanin refuses to get to know Kristin because of what he has pre-conceived as the truth, which is the other problem.

I really loved when Mama tells him that he shouldn’t pass judgement on someone he doesn’t know and that he needs to try and accept Kristin. Woodson does this phenomenal job by the end of the novel in making Melanin see the error in his ways, and while he hasn’t totally accepted them by the end of the novel, you can see that he has somewhat changed his tune.

Both of these novels explode children having homosexual parents in such a realistic and valuable way. While both Melanin and Ashley has the same response to their parents newfound sexual identity, it’s interesting how both novels have very similar outlooks on this subject matter. Both authors do a great job of exploring the topic on a level that a middle grader can understand and comprehend, while being able to see a clear resolve to the situation. Both novels open a dialogue for children and parents to discuss the topic, which is ultimately why they both work so well. I definitely would recommend checking out both these middle grade novels if this is a topic that interests you. We need more approaches to LGBT in middle grade, and I feel like both We Are All Made of Molecules and From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun successfully investigate this topic with such an open eye.

If you have any recommendations for other middle grade novels that focus on LGBT issues, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!