I read a lot, but I often don’t remember the details of a story. What I do remember is how a book made me feel. As I looked over my list of 100+ middle grade titles that I read this year, these were the ones that stood out as the most memorable, the ones that evoked the strongest emotions, the ones that I immediately think “Oh yeah, I really loved that book”, even if I can no longer remember the main character’s name.
Last Week’s Reads:
The only middle grade book I managed to get through last week was Stella by Starlight (4 stars). This was an excellent book, but the ending left me disappointed. I also read The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick and Manage Your Day to Day edited by Jocelyn Glei to round out the week.
This Week’s Reads:
Sigh…I am plugging my way through The Nix by Nathaniel Hill. It’s a must-read because I’m facilitating our library book club next week, and I make it a priority to read all the books, but this is a hard one for me to finish because it’s so long and really don’t do well with long books. I am 75% of the way through it, so with any luck, I will be reading something more appealing very soon. I’ve started Look Me In the Eye by John Elder Robison (but had to abandon it when I kept getting his childhood mixed up with the main character in The Nix), and have a few self-improvement books on my shelf. My next middle grade read will by Caleb and Kit by Beth Vrabel.
Summer is a busy time for me at the library, but it’s almost the time I like to read a lot of middle grade and YA fiction so I can share great recommendations with our young patrons. Here are my favorite 5 star reads.
I honestly just picked my favorites, but I’m so happy to see that almost half of them have either diverse characters, or a diverse theme.
I recently discovered that each week, Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers, and Jen Vincent, of Teach Mentor Texts give the “It’s Monday! What are you Reading?” (#IMWAYR) meme a kitlit focus! It’s a weekly check-in of the books that you’ve read, and a look at the week ahead. I’m excited to be part of this for the first time!
Last Week’s Reads
I was away on holidays last week, but I managed to read Miles Morales by Jason Reynolds (5 BIG stars for this YA novel), as well as Zinnia and the Bees by Danielle Davis (4 stars) and Ban This Book by Alan Gratz (4 stars).
This Week’s Reads
My priority this week is Stella by Starlight by Sharon E. Draper, which is the middle grade selection for the brand new Diverse Books Club moderated by Madeline at Top Shelf Text. I’m so excited to join this group (you can join as well on the Goodreads group, or follow @diversebooksclub on Instagram with the hashtag #weneeddiversebooksclub. The YA selection is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (if you haven’t read this one yet, I highly suggest you do!), and the adult pick is The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.
I also found Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling (WHAT, the release date is Sept 5th, how does this happen?) on the shelf at my favorite local indie bookstore, so I picked it up to read as well.
The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand, Little, Brown and Company (June 2017). Advanced Reader Copy courtesy of NetGalley.
Thank you to NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of this book – all opinions are my own.
This is my first Elin Hilderbrand book, but it definitely will not be my last. I easily immersed myself in its story, and it was the perfect summer read.
THE IDENTICALS is the story of two sisters, Tabitha and Harper, identical twins who live very different lives. After their parent’s divorce, Harper settled on Martha’s Vineyard with their laidback father, while Tabitha lived with their straight-laced and elegant mother in Nantucket. After a falling out 14 year ago, their girls have had nothing to do with each other, until a family crisis draws them back into each other’s lives. The girls are forced to face the choices they’ve made, the resentments they’ve held, and find a way to work together to face their challenges.
I loved the settings, learning more about both Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, and the descriptions made them very vivid in my mind. The characters were complex, colorful, and their sibling rivalry felt very real.
I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who loves books about complicated families and the struggles that come along with being part one.
The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson, William Morrow (July 2017).
This was my first Joshilyn Jackson book, but it will definitely not be my last. I’m so glad it was on the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2017 Summer Reading Guide as I’m not sure I would have picked it up otherwise, but I’m so glad I did.
THE ALMOST SISTERS is a wonderful book about family. It’s about the people we choose to be our family, and those we don’t, and how even when we think we know what family means, life often has more to teach us. It expertly weaves together the stories of several characters as experienced through the eyes of Leia Birch Briggs, and it is full of questions, relationships, and drama that make families so complex and colorful.
I loved Jackson’s writing, and it was so easy to feel invested in the characters. The story was complex and yet so relatable and rich with detail. It made me feel so many different things, and left me wanting the story to continue on, and to know what was going to happen with the characters next.
It’s not often I read as much as I did in July. The release of the last Land of Stories book by Chris Colfer was motivator to re-read the series, but I can’t tell you how I managed to read 21 books this month. Nevertheless, here is the list of what I accomplished.
Britt-Marie was Here by Fredrik Backman ★★★★
Mitzi Bytes by Kerry Clare ★★★
The Great Treehouse War by Lisa Graff ★★★★
Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout ★★★
Restart by Gordon Korman ★★★★★
Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave ★★★
The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi ★★★★
Sweet Spot: An Ice Cream Binge Across America by Amy Ettinger ★★★★
The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs ★★★★★
The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer ★★★★★
Better than Life by Daniel Pennac ★★★★
The Enchantress Returns by Chris Colfer ★★★★★
A Grimm Warning by Chris Colfer ★★★★★
Beyond the Kingdoms by Chris Colfer ★★★★★
He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly ★★★★
Worlds Collide by Chris Colfer ★★★★★
Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly ★★★★
A Rambler Steals Home by Carter Higgins ★★★★
Walking with Miss Millie by Tamara Bundy ★★★★
Click’d by Tamara Ireland Stone ★★★★★
Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry ★★★★
Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry, Feiwel & Friends (March 2017).
Written mostly in verse, FORGET ME NOT will appeal to readers not only for its poetic language, but also because of the story told in alternating voices of Calli, a girl with Tourette Syndrome, and one of her classmates, Jinsong. Calli is constantly on the move because of her mother’s unfortunate choice in men. She decides that this time, she will not to tell anyone that she has TS and hopes for a fresh start, but it doesn’t take long before her tics are causing the kids in her class start to call her a freak. Jinsong is drawn to Calli from the start, but finds it difficult to stand up for her when she is bullied. As Calli’s mom gets drawn into another relationship that Calli fears will be her undoing, is there any hope she and Jinsong will be able to develop their friendship before her mom decides its time to move on?
Although I’m not usually a huge fan of novels in verse, the alternating voices and my sympathy for Calli’s lack of control over her life sucked me in. The author has Tourette Syndrome, and the characters were believable and reflected her personal experiences. The verse makes this book a quick read, and expands it audience reach.
I’ll be keeping my eye open for more from Ellie Terry!
Click’d by Tamara Ireland Stone, Disney-Hyperion (September 2017), Advanced Reader’s Copy courtesy of NetGalley (all opinions are my own)
This is the first book I’ve read with coding as a main theme, and I was so impressed for several reasons. First, this book felt so fresh, as coding is timely topic, but there hasn’t been a lot written about it in middle grade fiction with female protagonists. Second, the characters in this book are real, using language and acting the way young teen girls do, and it felt very much at its audience’s level. Third, I could not stop reading…I was totally invested in the story and loved that this book did not take me where I feared it might in the beginning.
In CLICK’D, Allie has spent the summer at a coding camp for girls, where she’s created a new friendship app that turns meeting people into a game. When her teacher recommends her for a coding contest, the stakes are raised when Allie learns her arch nemesis is also competing. Allie decides to let the app into the world to get some live data, and its a HUGE hit. As followers surpass all of her expectations, she thinks she’s a shoo-in to win the contest…until a glitch causes everything to crash around her. As Allie races to fix the issues before the contest, she learns that friendship apps can be just as complicated as friendships in the real world.
I’ll definitely be ordering a copy of this book for our library and promoting it!
Walking With Miss Millie by Tamara Bundy, Nancy Paulsen Books (July 2017).
NOW I understand why so many people are talking about this book!
WALKING WITH MISS MILLIE is one of the latest additions to the list of middle grade fiction that tugs at your heartstrings from start to finish. Alice thinks she has temporarily moved to the small town of Rainbow, along with her mother and brother, to help her grandma whose memory is failing. The relationship she develops with Miss Millie, the elderly black neighbor next door, is a beautiful example of an intergenerational bond that provides friendship for two individuals who need what the other has to offer. In addition, Alice’s budding friendship with a neighborhood girl, her complicated feelings for her absent father, and her incorporation into the fabric of the small town result in a story that is character-centered and full of warmth. Though there are moments when you’ll need to have a Kleenex handy, this moving book is generally uplifting and recommended for readers who want to feel a strong connection to the characters in their books.