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Posts in Middle Grade Books Category


Jen's Recommendations from the 48 Hour Book Challenge

Posted by Jen Robinson on June 8, 2009 at 6:00 AM in Middle Grade BooksRecommendations
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48hbc.pngThis weekend, in a 48-hour period, I spent 29 hours reading and blogging about books. I was participating in the 4th Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge, hosted by our own Pam Coughlan, MotherReader. This is a wonderful event held in celebration of reading. More than 100 people participated, and scores of others followed along, and commented to show support. You can find links to wrap-up posts by all of the participants here. My own detailed wrap-up post is on my blog. Here, I'd like to highlight a few of the books that I read, the ones that I think will be of particular interest to the Booklights audience.

wall.jpgLaurel Snyder's Any Which Wall (illustrated by LeUyen Pham) is an homage to classic children's books about magic, especially to Edward Eager's books. It's also a celebration of childhood, and a reminder not to turn away from the joys of everyday life. It's about four children who discover a magic wall, one that can wish them away to other places (including Camelot). I concluded: "I highly recommend Any Which Wall to anyone who would like a return to reading about magic, a return to old-fashioned stories in which children ride their bikes around unsupervised and eat cake with new acquaintances. It's Laurel's gift to readers, and to the ghost of Edward Eager. I think that he'd be pleased." My full review is here.

masterpiece.jpgMasterpiece by Elise Broach (illustrated by Kelly Murphy) just won the E.B. White Read-Aloud Award for older readers. It's the story of an unlikely friendship between a beetle named Marvin and a quiet eleven-year-old boy named James. It strikes a perfect balance between mystery, world-building, and learning, with fascinating details about art theft and forgery. I think that it's a must-read title for children and adults, and an excellent choice for families reading aloud together. My full review is here. Also, don't miss this year's picture book winner for the E.B. White award: A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker (illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton). This is a wonderful read-aloud for toddlers.

jemma.jpgJemma Hartman, Camper Extraordinaire, by Brenda Ferber, is the perfect book for tween girls about to head off to camp for the first time. It's about eleven year old Jemma, who is excited to spend the summer at camp with her best friend, Tammy (who moved away at the start of the school year). Everything changes, however, when Tammy brings a cousin to camp, and Jemma is left fighting with the other girl for her friend's attention. This classic tween drama is set against a backdrop that shows all of the best attributes of summer camp. ("... the camaraderie, the friendships, the personal responsibility and teamwork. The songs and campfires and 'smores and swimming.") My full review is here.

calpurnia.jpgThe Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly is a coming of age novel about a girl living in Central Texas in 1899. Calpurnia is a tomboy and a scientist by nature, taught by her grandfather. She struggles to balance the expectations that society has for girls against her own desires. This is the best kind of historical fiction, a novel that conveys plenty of important information about the time period, while keeping everything organic to the story. And Calpurnia is a great character, a girl that readers will root for whole-heartedly. Although this is billed as a novel for young adults, I think it would work for strong readers a bit younger, too. My full review is here.

I also reviewed The Ghosts of Rathburn Park by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Ghost Huntress Book 2: The Guidance by Marley Gibson, Shift by Jennifer Bradbury (an excellent summer read for teen boys), If the Witness Lied by Caroline Cooney, and Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz (adult mystery). But if you're looking for other book recommendations, do take a stroll through some of the other wrap-up posts from the 48 hour book challenge. It is a treasure trove of books selected by avid and discerning readers.

Here are a couple of other articles that caught my eye this week that I thought would be of particular interest to you all:

I mentioned Susan Stephenson, The Book Chook, in last week's post. This week, she had a post that simply cried out to me to be shared here. Susan is responding to a letter from a Mom who is worried because she knows about the importance of fathers as reading role models, but her husband has refused to read bedtime stories to their son. Susan shares a number of suggestions of other ways that the father could be a reading role model. She responds to possible objections that the Dad might have (timing, discomfort with fiction, etc.), and suggests alternatives. It's a nice positive, constructive post, with nuts and bolts suggestions, well worth checking out.

I also thought that you all might be interested in a recent post by Dawn Morris at Moms Inspire Learning, about using games to enhance literacy. She suggests options for kids of different age ranges, from packaged games to simple ideas for playing word games in the car. This post is just in time for summer vacation. Dawn has lots of other great posts, too, including a three-part (so far) series about Ways to Raise an Avid Reader. This one started as a top 10 list, but has grown.

For more news like these last couple of items, check out this week's Children's Literacy Round-Up, which will be available at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, the Reading Tub's blog, sometime today (Updated to add: here is the direct link). Happy reading!


Thursday Three: Hot Titles

Posted by Pam on June 4, 2009 at 9:58 AM in Middle Grade BooksPicture BooksYoung Adult Books
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Last weekend I attended Book Expo America (BEA) and had a blast. I met some wonderful authors, got tons of signed books, and shipped home a forty-pound box of goodies. For today's Thursday Three, I'm covering the hottest titles in Young Adult, Middle Grade, and Picture Books.

Catching Fire
by Suzanne Collins
Catching FirePeople lined up in the early hours of the morning to get a ticket to Suzanne Collins' book signing. Others scouted out the 10:00 a.m. Scholastic distribution of the Advance Reader Copy (ARC), not wanting to wait until the September release to read the sequel to Hunger Games. But I didn't realize how hot this title was until I came home and saw bids on ebay reaching over $100. (ARC's specifically say that they are Not For Sale, often on the cover.) A few book blogs offered their copies to readers in random drawings and pulled in over two hundred comments. This book is Twilight-hot. And I picked up an abandoned copy off a lunch table at the convention. Crazy.

Meet Rebecca
by Jacqueline Dembar Greene
American Girl released a new historical character, Rebecca Rubin, a Jewish-American immigrant living in New York City in 1914. Contrary to the Catching Fire fever, this new series by American Girl slipped under the radar for most people I talked to, but it was an entirely pleasant surprise. At the book signing on Sunday morning I was very excited to meet the author and express my delight at a series chronicling the Jewish immigrant experience. I brought the book home and can't wait to read it. The doll is super-cute too. Forget my kids, I want her myself. Seriously.

Big Frog Can't Fit In
by Mo Willems
Another hot ticket was for the new Mo Willems' title, even though it's not available yet. Folks stood in long lines to get Mr. Willems signature on the promo piece for the new pop-up book. I can appreciate the excitement as I'd buy it if Mo illustrated the AIG collapse. (Actually, that might help me understand it.) So not seeing the book yet, all I can say is that the frog is apparently large and doesn't "fit in," one may guess both figuratively and literally. Hence, the pop-up.

I hadn't made it to New York in time for Mo's signing, but as chance would have it, I ran into him on Saturday on the exhibit floor. We talked a bit, and I got my signature and he said the first frog doodle. Or maybe he meant the first frog on a T-shirt. Either way, I'm happy.


Favorite Children's Books: Jen

Posted by Jen Robinson on May 4, 2009 at 6:00 AM in Middle Grade BooksRecommendations
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JenRobinsonEarlyReader.jpg Continuing last week's discussion of favorite books, I would like to share some of my favorite titles for middle grade readers (ages 8 to 12). I've been a reader since a very young age (as is apparent from the photo to the right) It's nearly impossible to narrow down to 10 titles, out of all of the children's books out there. But here are a few of my treasured favorites, books that I've read multiple times. I've limited myself to one title per author, though many of these authors have written other books that I loved, too. Most of these are books that I own in multiple editions, because I can never resist them when I run across them. I have not ranked this list, because that would be truly impossible. It is alphabetical by author.

  • 21WXW4GJCQL._SL500_AA140_.jpgReturn to Gone-Away by Elizabeth Enright. I love all of Elizabeth Enright's books. Her Melendy family quartet sets the standard, I think, for kid-friendly, accessible stories about families (see my reviews of the first two Melendy family books: The Saturdays and The Four-Story Mistake). But Gone-Away Lake and the sequel, Return to Gone-Away, are magical. They epitomize summer, adventure, and things that kids find cool. They are timeless. I give the edge to Return to Gone-Away, because I love the house that the children move into. But anything by Elizabeth Enright is worth reading.
  • Maida's Little Shop by Inez Haynes Irwin. Maida's Little Shop was originally published in 1910, and was the first of a series of 15 books about the motherless daughter of a magnanimous tycoon, and her close-knit group of friends. I can't really say how these books hold up for new readers, but they were among the first books that I loved and collected. The Maida books also taught me, early, that children's books are not just for children. My grandmother introduced them to me.
  • ForgottenDoor.jpgThe Forgotten Door by Alexander Key. My review. The Forgotten Door is the book that made me fall in love with science fiction. It's about a boy from an advanced world who falls through a long-unused door into our own world, where most people are less than kind. It's a slim novel, but one that makes readers think. Key also wrote Escape to Witch Mountain.
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. A Wrinkle in Time is another classic title that taught me the joy of reading science fiction and fantasy novels. The bonus with AWIT, though, is that the main character feels so very real.
  • TheGiver.jpgThe Giver by Lois Lowry. The Giver was probably the book that ignited my passion for dystopian fiction. It is also famous for having an ambiguous ending (though that ending becomes more clear in a later companion story).
  • AnneOfGreenGables.jpgAnne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. I truly believe that Anne Shirley helped to shape the person that I became. There's a reason why people are still reading about her (and even writing prequels) after more than 100 years.
  • Clementine.jpgClementine by Sara Pennypacker (ill. Marla Frazee). My review. Clementine is a modern-day children's book character, one who I feel deserves a place right along with Pippi Longstocking and Ramona. Clementine is 100% real, and hilariously funny. I think that all early elementary school children should have a chance to read about her. I also enjoyed the next two books in the series, The Talented Clementine, and Clementine's Letter.
  • TheLightningThief.jpgThe Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. My review. The Lightning Thief is the first book in Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. These books are modern classics. I think that they will be read for generations. They are well-written, engrossing, funny, and filled with mythological details that never feel like lessons. The fifth and final book in the Percy Jackson series, The Last Olympian, is scheduled for publication tomorrow.
  • HarryPotter1.jpgHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling. Of course the Harry Potter books are modern classics, too. The thing that I like best about this series, apart from the fact that I enjoy reading the books, is the fact that they have turned millions of children and adults on to reading children's books. Their impact can't be over-estimated.
  • TheVelvetRoom.jpgThe Velvet Room by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. My reviews: here and here. Zilpha Keatley Snyder was probably my favorite author when I was growing up. Her books are filled with magic,, adventure, and memorable characters. My two favorites, The Velvet Room and The Changeling, are books that I read over and over again. The Velvet Room also houses my favorite fictional room from children's literature.

One thing that's clear to me from assembling this list is how strong childhood loyalties are. It take a lot for a recent title to push aside one of my childhood favorites. But the ones on this list made the cut. What are your favorite children's books? Are you able to find recent titles that take their place alongside your childhood favorites, or do your childhood preferences reign supreme?

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