This month, I challenged myself to pick up more middle grade books and post about them on social media with the hashtag #middlegrademay. There are still SO MANY MORE great middle grade books on my radar that I want to get to, but here's what I was able to read this month:
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Amina's Voice by Hena Khan (Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster, 2017). This is a really solid contemporary middle grade story about Amina, a Muslim kid living in America. When her best friend Soojin decides to adopt an American name after she gets her citizenship, it throws Amina for a loop. Suddenly everything seems to be changing. Can Amina find her voice to stand up and tell everyone how she feels? Although Amina and her family deal with some issues related to immigration and being Muslim, I wouldn't call this an issue-driven book. I would hand this to kids who like realistic stories about characters who are dealing with a lot of the typical middle school issues - friendship, family, school, etc.
The Apprentice Witch by James Nichol (Chicken House, July 2017). This one's coming out in July and it's a great read for kids who like stories about magic and witches. When Arianwyn's evaluation goes awry and she does not graduate to the status of full witch, she is sent to a desperate little town near the edge of a powerfully magical forest where they are happy to have even an apprentice witch. There Arianwyn does the best she can dealing with the creatures that venture out of the wood, and she tries to understand the mysterious, dark glyph that keeps appearing to her. This is a magical adventure story that's a bit dark, but not too scary. It reminded me a lot of The Thickety series (which I love) and I think readers who enjoy that blend of slightly scary magical fantasy will like this one, as well.
Armstrong and Charlie by Steven B. Frank (Houghton Mifflin, 2017). One of my staff members raved about this historical novel, set in 1970s Los Angeles and telling the story of two boys - one who is bused to a predominantly white school from an African American neighborhood, and one who has attended the white school his whole life. I enjoyed it, although the characters read older than sixth grade to me. As a kid who was bused myself, it was interesting to see two sides to the story. I'd suggest this to readers who love historical fiction and school stories.
The Crystal Ribbon by Celeste Lim (Scholastic, 2017). In the vein of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, this is a richly depicted historical fantasy novel about a young girl sold away from her family to abusive in-laws who helps and befriends jing, animal spirits who eventually help her in return. Kids who love Grace Lin's work or who enjoy Chinese folklore and/or fantasy adventure stories will like this one, too.
Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm (Random House, 2016). Here's another historical novel, this one set in Depression Era Key West, Florida. Beans does what he can to make ends meet and help his family, even when his jobs are not quite legal. When strangers show up to makeover Key West as a tourist destination - a last ditch effort to save the city from bankruptcy - they turn the whole town on its head. I especially like historical fiction that tells me about things I didn't know, and I had no idea this had happened in Key West. Hand this to fans of Jennifer Holm's other works and any fans of historical fiction.
The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley (Scholastic, 2017). The discovery of a hidden painting in a community garden in Harlem and a subsequent attack on an elderly man in that garden sends three kids on a hunt to solve a mystery and save their neighborhood. With developers looking to transform Harlem into something much different than the historic neighborhood, Jin and her new friends know they must stop them or risk losing their homes for good. I'm not a huge mystery fan, but I could really appreciate the rich setting, filled with details of life in Harlem. Kids who love mystery stories, especially novels like Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett or The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, will like this one, too.
The Thickety 4: The Last Spell by J.A. White (Katherine Tegan Books, 2017). This is the fourth and final book of a series that I LOVE and it did not disappoint. Definitely start with the first book, but don't skip the rest. This is a creepy magical adventure story that will please fans of slightly scary fantasy books.
Midnight Without a Moon by Linda Williams Jackson (Houghton Mifflin, 2017). Rose is used to being left behind, so when her mother leaves with her new family to travel North away from the hard life 1950s Mississippi has to offer, Rose resigns herself to her fate... for now. Her deepest hope is that her mother might send for her or that she might find some other way out of the South where tensions are rising. When a Negro boy from Chicago, Emmett Till, is murdered, Rose realizes that change is coming in Mississippi, but whether it will be good or bad, only time will tell. Hand this to kids who enjoy civil rights stories, especially fans of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor.
Moving Target by Christina Diaz Gonzalez (Scholastic, 2016). This book is a complete thrill ride! Cassie has spent her life moving around to different places, following her art history professor father's career. Now they're living in Italy when one day her father picks her up from school in a panic, saying that she is in trouble, that a group called the Hastati wants her dead. And Cassie finds out that she is part of an ancient bloodline, she is a person marked from birth with the ability to control the Spear of Destiny and alter the course of human history. But many people would kill her before she can take that power into hand. This action-packed adventure story will appeal to kids who love the action in series like Percy Jackson or Loot by Jude Watson.
Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson (Walden Pond Press, 2016). Oh, man. This book got me in the feels. When their beloved sixth grade teacher is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and leaves unexpectedly early, missing her Last Day party that the class was throwing her, three boys set out to give her the send-off they know she deserves. Both funny and heartfelt, this is a contemporary novel for kids who like to feel the feels, but who also love to laugh. I love books that are sometimes funny and sometimes serious, and this one fit the bill.
Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O'Neill (Oni Press, 2016). In this fairy tale graphic novel, Princess Sadie is waiting for rescue in her tower when it's not a prince who arrives but another princess. Although the story felt a little sparse, this is a much-needed GLBT twist on the traditional princess rescue trope (and done in a middle-grade friendly way).
The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda (Scholastic, 2013). This rip-roaring action adventure story features Hindu mythology like the Percy Jackson series features Greek mythology. Don't miss this one for your Rick Riordan fans!
Did you read any middle grade this month?