The Compulsive Reader: Middle Grade Favorites

Monday, July 7, 2014

Middle Grade Favorites

I've had a really fun time discovering middle grade fiction this past year (click here to see my list of middle grade favorites from my first semester of grad school), and I had even more fun branching out this semester. Here are some of the favorites:

See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles

I loved this book so much, I read it twice. And then wrote a paper on it. It's that good, people. Please go pick up a copy from your nearest bookstore or library.

Harriet the Spy by Louise FitzHugh

I never read this book as a kid, and you know...I think I am okay with that. I don't know if I would have liked it. As an adult, I loved it so, so much. It felt like it was speaking to the kid that's still in me. I cried a little when I gave my copy back to the library. Must find and acquire a copy of my very own.

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Smile was among the first books I read in my foray into graphic novels, and I liked it a lot! Very upbeat and a bit quirky, with lots of heart.

Kissing Tennessee and Other Stories from the Stardust Dance by Kathi Appelt

I am so impressed by the range and depth of these stories, which all all very loosely connected by the annual Stardust dance. Kathi Appelt is a beautiful and masterful writer, and this collection of short stories should definitely be on your reading list!

There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom by Louis Sachar

I do remember this one sitting on the shelves of classroom library when I was a kid. I think it grossed me out because I envisioned voyeuristic little boys when I saw it and I already had four brothers, so no thank you. My advisor strongly encouraged (i.e. directed) me to try it, and I so enjoyed it. Sachar really has a way with point of view! (But also, what is wrong with that boy's face?)

Hope is a Ferris Wheel by Robin Herrera

Of course I've already reviewed this book here, but it bears repeating: THIS BOOK IS AWESOME. I loved it so much. Funny and sad and sweet, with full characters beyond just the wonderfully smart and brave protagonist Star. It's truly quite good.

On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer

I met Marion Dane Bauer at VCFA Day Ann Arbor in April and picked up this book. It's a quick read, but it's packed with intense emotion and impossible questions. I'm in awe that Bauer was able to write about such a tragedy in so few, perfect, and powerful words. I highly encourage you to pick it up.

Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows

Although this is more of an early-reader than a middle grade book, I'm definitely including it in my list of favorites! I loved this dynamic duo of characters and how they completely subvert expectations while having a lot of fun.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

Okay, I can't say as this is a favorite, because I found so many things about this book that I wanted to argue, but it fascinated me. It's a longer novel, which is generally all right, except it takes a while for the reader to find the plot of this novel--well over 50 pages. And even then, the desires and emotional arcs are tangled and murky until the last 50 pages or so. And yet, everything about the time period and setting is exciting to me--1899 Texas. I wanted to like this book so much, so I gave it a lot of passes, but in all honesty, it obviously reads like a book that an adult thinks a child might like to read, not what a kid would actually want to read. I suppose I like this book because I see what it could have been if it had gone through a few more rounds of revision.

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

This is a re-read from my childhood. The style of children's books written in the early and mid-twentieth century seems to be a collection of short, episodic chapters with a unifying character, but whereas that drove me insane with Mary Poppins, Lindgren made it work with Pippi. She has charm and grit, and she's surprisingly vulnerable, and it was a lot of fun reading about her again.

The Riverman by Aaron Starmer

This book. I've picked it up again and again at work, intrigued by the cover and the premise. I finally read it (and review will be forthcoming!) and I was impressed. Halfway through, three-quarters of the way through, I had no idea what would happen and how it would end. It's very much about the collision of childhood and adulthood, and how to deal with the questions and problems one faces as they grow up.

The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes

I found this short novel about second-grader Billy Miller very charming and true. This one would be a fun read-aloud for the second grade class I subbed for this past school year. Henkes explores Billy's relationships with the people in his life, and shows how Billy's confidence grows throughout one school year.

I didn't read quite as many middle grade books this semester as last, but I've got a stack of books I'm excited about diving into for next semester! The list includes A Crooked Kind of Perfect, The Battle of Darcy Lane, The Glass Sentence, The Hidden Summer, The Great Greene Heist, and more!


LinWash said...

A great list! I've read some of them, but haven't read others. Robin's book is on my TBR list.

Good luck on your next semester!

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom when I was a kid and not reading it too. This strikes me as a little odd, since I was a HUGE fan of pretty much all his other books.
I read Harriet the Spy once years and years ago, and it's mostly faded from my memory. I do remember the one part where she hides in the dumbwaiter, though.