Tag Archives: Middle Grade

Nevermoor and the Trials of Morrigan Crow- Jessica Townsend Review

This one would have prompted me to say “for lovers of Harry Potter” but I think it hovers at the younger age of HP. If your kiddo has finished Potter right through Book 7, they might find this too young. In any case, it has the same delight in discovery of magic and the same tension of being tested in skills you didn’t know you have. I was surprised how much I liked it and I haven’t read the series only due to how many other books I am reading. Nevermoor is a place you should go!

The Mighty Miss Malone-Christopher Paul Curtis Review

This was another class recommendation and another that my daughter didn’t read! But that’s OK, because these are my reads, not hers! I think any kid who reads like it was air, would like to travel alongside Deza Malone and her brother Jimmie for a while. More importantly, the story paints of picture of the Depression-era south without cramming history down their throat. Certainly a conversation piece for the family or for school, but a charming story that need not be introduced as educational. It has a similar charm as Goodnight Mr. Tom, which is read by many school children in the UK as part of their WWII segments.

The Apothecary-Maile Meloy Review

This is an all-time favourite. I listed it as a “comp” in my book submittals, though I can only aspire to Meloy’s talents! You may see a theme, my dusty history major showing through. This tale is set in 1952 London, a grey time of ration and recovery. I love the magic-realism of the story and the very real relationship that grows between Janie and Benjamin. Your mid to upper-level MG reader will eat this one up, but you should definitely put it on your list too.

Keeper of the Lost Cities-Shannon Messenger Review

Is Shannon Messenger the JRR Martin of MG fantasy? Yes she is! You know early on, before HBO, when only the truest of nerds would have admitted to loving the books (yup, me). Messenger delivers the same exaggerated world of unparalleled beauty and splendour (Lanisters abound), daring, adventure, romance… But this is MG grade people, so get your minds out of the gutter. No breasts, no flaying, just good clean elfin fun!

The books really do have it all. You want to see the ogres defeated but really, you just want to know if its Fitz or Keefe! As noted before, mine is well past fantasy but she’s waiting with bated breath for the delivery of the latest tomorrow.

As for me, I definitely did not hold out reading the compendium to the last book because I was afraid the broken spine would give me away!

(protagonists are between 13-16, there is some violence and death and lots of heart pounding crushes… barely a kiss to be found though)

Read the series it and then you’ll know what I mean when I say “Glitter But.”

The Penderwicks-Jeanne Birdsall Review

I read a good deal of YA and more and more I have become numb to the themes of disaster, betrayal, annihilation, and sex that shape many of the stories. I’m not complaining, many of them are great reads but these next few books in the MG sphere delight in their simplicity and, if it doesn’t send you running, innocence. These are books where you are in it for the characters and the atmosphere, not the sitting on the edge of your seat quality.

The Penderwicks’s series is time less and has the quiet quality of the Little House series while being entirely contemporary. What I love, however, is the fact that the story could take place almost any time. When we started the series, years ago, I thought they were classics maybe from the 50s. I love that there is little to gives away when it takes place because and it doesn’t matter because you are drawn into the small movements of a charming family.

It’s best for lower MG readers, though admittedly, we listened to most of them on audio so I’m not absolutely sure of the reading difficulty. An 8-9 year old will fall in love and follow the Penderwicks right through to college… I kinda wish I was a Penderwick; you will too.

I Lived on Butterfly Hill-Marjorie Agostin Review

I got this for my daughter for her Individuals in Society class (that’s like Social Studies in the US).

Of course, as an optional school book, she opted out! I loved it. Vivid and heartfelt it was both a peek into the troubling time of Pinochet in Chile (a time and place I guess not many 11yr olds know about) and a lovely journey into the life of a young girl. I suggest it as a great one to read out loud for younger to mid-level MG readers. Added bonus, you’ll love it too.

Wings of Fire-Tui T Sutherland Review

This is where it all began…about 5 years ago. Potter was done (because we insisted on reading the whole series out loud-why else do people have children?) and she was ready to embrace a series all her own. Then we found Wings! Now, there is much to recommend this visit into the world of dragons. For instance, it’s just dragons… they are not just the trusty steed to sword wielding children. Then there is the delightful fact that Book 1 focuses on the protective, kind, not overly brilliant and yes, some may say hunky, Clay! Oh Tui, how long I have waited to have a character wear my name so well! Pick the first few up for your 8-9s (depending on reading level) but only if you are prepared to go all in for 14 books, plus the ancillary series about a different generation!

I Read kid-lit

I wish, as I am sure so many people do, that I had more time to read. After all, it is the first piece of advice given to aspiring writers… “read!” When the work of the day is done, from the ministrations of my little family to the writing and efforts to get the writing read, I reach for middle grade and YA fiction. Every time. I know, as a writer for this age group, some of that inclination is for research and assessing the ‘competition’ but I read for the 10-15 year old set long before I put pen to paper. Not only that, I used to be embarrassed about it.

 I wish I could get through an entire blog series as a middle grade writer without mentioning JK Rowling, but it’s too hard. That’s like writing about fantasy without Tolkien or horror with King. The first toe I dipped in the pond of kid-lit was The Sorcerer’s Stone (Philosophers Stone in the UK). I was reluctant as could be… ”I do not like stories with cute little names for things, like ‘Quidditch’ and ‘Muggles’,” but out of respect for the recommender – who was 65 at the time—I gave it a try. To this day, I break out in an enormous grin if I see an adult on the train reading a Potter and I wonder, enviously, if it is their first time. What I wouldn’t give to get back my first time!

 Being transported back to your early teen years, to all that wonder and possibility, without the horror of actually having to live through the hormones, the acne and angst, is a delight. Those years are so long-past there is no painful yearning, just the pleasure of exploration and newness. I have a passion for fantasy but when I dip into YA I am just as thrilled to cry over Fault in our Stars or The Hate U Give and guess at the outcome in The Lies You Never Told Me. The worlds in many of these stories is no less horrifying, and often a great deal more so (Hunger Games, 5th Wave) than our own, but it still feels like escape. The heroes don’t have to hold down jobs, pay mortgages or make marriages work. They can thrill from head to toe over the possibility of a first kiss and don’t have to get bogged down in sexual politics. My first kiss was a dud; I wait with anticipation for that first kiss between Sophie and Fitz (Keeper of the lost Cities).

 If you pour through your book lists, churn over the quality of the prose with your book groups and quiver in anticipation over the turn of phrase or the spiritual reawakening of middle age, I commend you. As for me, every evening I am happy to clip 35 years off my life and experience youth again here, or in an imaginary other place. I read like a kid, maybe one day I’ll live more like one.

 Now I have to pay a bill, and walk the dog….