Middle Grade Novels

(272 Pages AR: MG 4.1 Points: 6.0)

Summerlost is the touching debut middle grade novel from the YA author, Allie Condie.

It's the first summer since a devastating accident killed Cedar's father and younger brother, Ben. Cedar and her mom are moving back to the town of Iron Creek (where her mom grew up) for the summer. Soon after moving into their new house a boy dressed in a costume rides past Cedar on his bike. Intrigued, Cedar follows him to Summerlost (a renowned summer renaissance theatre festival) It's not long before she becomes friends with Leo and he helps her get a job working concessions at the festival. She's excited about making a new friend and keeping busy, but quickly finds herself surrounded by an unfortunate mystery: the tragic, too-short life of a Hollywood actress who haunts the halls of Summerlost.

I really enjoyed this charming, well written story.

If you enjoy Summerlost, you'll probably like Maybe a Fox and Hour of the Bees too!

Amazon affiliate links help keep the lights on here at The Good Librarian, so if you're interested in purchasing this book for you or your local school library, please know that buying it through this link helps me buy more books to review!

Unbound by Ann E. Burg has been on my "to-read" list for a long time so I finally bought myself a copy last week and couldn't wait to spend the weekend curled up in my reading chair with this novel in verse. I opened it around 10:30 Friday night and spent the next three hours reading the entire thing. I could not put it down! (which left me sad and distraught over what I would spend the rest of the weekend reading, but I'm surviving...) Unbound is the story of Gracie, a nine year-old albino slave (which the author never comes out and says directly, but Gracie's features and blue eyes are discussed through conversations she has with others) who spends her days watching her two toddler brothers while her mother and step father work the fields. Her life changes overnight when she's told she will be taken to the Big House in the morning to work for the Master.  I instantly fell in love with Gracie and barely twenty pages in I was sobbing like a baby thinking about Gracie leaving her family and worrying about what was going to happen. I wanted to reach through the pages of the book to hold her close and protect her. Ann E. Burg's prose is so clever and pulls you into  Gracie's family's world so inclusively you feel immersed in the story and can't wait to see what happens next.  Novels in verse, when well written as this one is, are a refreshing change to traditional novels and if you've never read a novel in verse I highly recommend you read one. This one.
AR Level: MG 5.1

If you enjoy Unbound, you will also like Brown Girl Dreaming (MG 5.3) and Jefferson's Sons (MG+ 3.9)-*content not suitable for students below 6th grade (Click here for more information about AR Levels)

If you'd like to buy one for you or your local school's library, click on the link below:

I don't usually encourage readers to go for the audio version of a story, but this one was so good audibly (and I know I would not have enjoyed it as much if I read it through my own eyes.) Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan  follow two fifth grade boys, Ravi, who just moved to America from India, and Joe, a big-for-his-age boy who gets picked on for his size and then some. In India, Ravi was a popular, smart rich kid who was awesome at sports, but here in America he's hard to understand because of his accent, smaller than the other kids, and his constant attempts to impress his new classmates are unsuccessful. Throughout the story, Joe and Ravi could be such awesome friends, but they don't realize it until a bully brings them together. The story is told in alternating points of view between Ravi and Joe. The narrator for the audio book does an amazing job with the Indian accents for Ravi and his family, and had I been reading it myself, I know I would've struggled with the pronunciation of several words and names. Hearing it with the accent and correct pronunciation really enhanced the depth of the story for me, so I encourage you to listen to it if you're able. I borrowed the title through Hoopla, and if you have a local public library there's a good chance you have Hoopla available to you FOR FREE, so check with your librarian about how to gain access to it.

If you enjoyed Save Me a Seat, you'll also like The Paper Cowboy and Wolf Hollow

Here's a link to purchase the audio book:

As a huge fan of middle grade historical fiction I am excited to see several books coming out this year based on and around the events of 9/11. It's important for kids to understand the good and bad side of history and I really enjoyed this touching story. Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes  is about Deja, a fifth grader, and her family who's been down on their luck for some time. With her mother working all the time and her dad's chronic ill health, Deja is carrying a lot more responsibility than most kids her age. When her teacher assigns a project about 9/11, the students (especially Deja) find out how events that happened before they were born can impact their lives today. I think this story does a good job of transferring the emotions of that day, and I think kids will find the characters very engaging.

Request this book from your local library and read it for FREE!!!

If you enjoyed reading Falling Towers, you'll probably also like Prairie Evers and All the Broken Pieces.

And if you'd like to purchase a copy for yourself, your kids or your local school library, just follow this link to Amazon!

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The Wild Robot by Peter Brown is creating a ton of Newbery buzz so of course I had to read it. I wasn't sure what to expect from a book about a robot who becomes stranded on an island, blends in with nature, raises an orphaned gosling as her own son, and becomes friends with all the animals...but I loved it. It was so different from any book I've ever read. I think kids are going to really like reading this book. The short chapters, subject matter, and illustrations are just perfect and add to the overall appeal of this wonderfully written middle grade novel. Peter Brown is no stranger to children's literature, having earned a 2013 Caldecott Honor for his picture book, Creepy Carrots. But I have to admit...after loving The Wild Robot, and thoroughly enjoying Creepy Carrots, my favorite Peter Brown book is still Children Make Terrible Pets

Stop in your local library and borrow one of Peter Brown's awesome books, you will not be disappointed.

And if you want to buy one for you or your local school's library, click on a link below:

I haven't read a page turner like this in quite a while...I've read many good books, but it's been a long time since I've read a book and agonized over doing anything other than reading it. Every moment I wasn't reading this book I was thinking about the characters and wondering what was going to happen next. I tried to continue reading it in the car on the way home from vacation last week. I never do that as I get terribly carsick if I read in the car. I wasn't able to read for very long...but savored the few pages I scrabbled in. I generally do not pick up a YA novel because I'm in the business of children's literacy and focus on emergent readers and middle grade novels, but this book popped up on my radar while combing the web for Newbery talk, and after reading the reviews and consulting with literary connections I felt it was something I needed to read for myself. Oh my...I am sooooo glad I read this book. It was thrilling, suspenseful, emotional, and extremely well written. There are exceptions to every rule, and I strongly believe if you have a high leveled reader who is not overly sensitive, this is a suitable choice for the higher end of middle grade (6th, 7th and 8th) The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan follows two brothers who naively enter modern day child slavery on an African cocoa farm under the premise they will be paid for their labor and returned home once they work off the amount of money the bosses paid for them. Soon after arriving they realize nobody ever gets paid, no one ever leaves, and no one's ever told how much they owe. After two years of hard labor and beatings (they are vaguely described...trust me...I'm a wimp with violence-especially involving children-and I read this book without a wince...okay maybe one teeny tiny wince one time, but that's it) 15 year old Amadou's determination to run away with his 8 year old little brother, Seydou, is awakened when a 13 year old girl, who he nicknames Wildcat, is dumped on the farm. She is relentless to run until they break her spirit, but not completely as you soon find out. I'm not telling you any more. This is a MUST READ for sure. I think we'll hear a lot more about this book in the coming months as award season draws near.

Borrow it from your local library or click on the link below to purchase it from Amazon. 

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"Maybe this is going to be the year of the fox"...is the first thought I had after reading Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee because I enjoyed reading this story as much as I enjoyed reading Pax, and the two couldn't be more different from each other. Jules loves her older sister Sylvie, so when Sylvie vanishes after running off into the woods Jules has to find a way to cope with the loss. This story was very cleverly and whimsically written as the authors connect the spirit of Sylvie to a newborn fox kit...that might sound cheesy, but it was fantastically done. It has a fair amount of tragedy (mom passed away then sister vanishes) without being too heavy for middle grade readers.

Want to read it for free? Check it out at your local library!

If you liked Maybe a Fox, you might also enjoy Sara, Lost and Found and The Thing About Jellyfish

If you'd like to purchase this book for an awesome reader, or donate a copy to your local elementary school library, follow this link to Amazon...

Booked by Kwame Alexander was a fresh, very enjoyable read. I was skeptical picking it up because I know absolutely ZERO about soccer and thought I'd spend the entire time being lost and having to google my way through understanding some of the conversations but that didn't happen at all.

It's about Nick, a 12-year old boy who loves soccer, crushes on a girl, gets bullied and has some serious stuff to deal with at home.  Just when he thinks he can't handle any more, something serious happens that knocks him out of the game for a few weeks.

Kwame's writing style is so unique, and it's not just the novel-in-verse that has me in awe. It's the way he flips between writing in first person present tense and third person, and the way my brain just soaked it up like it was nothing...I think I'm smarter just for having read this book and exercising my brain like that. If you liked The Crossover, (Kwame's 2015 Newbery Winning book in verse) you will LOVE this one. I can't decide which one I like more...

Call up your local library and request it FOR FREE...

If you enjoyed reading Booked, you'll probably like All the Broken Pieces and The Crossover too!

To purchase this book for yourself or donate one to your local school library, follow this link to Amazon...

Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar surprised me-not in the story itself but in the YA label on the spine of my library copy...I just didn't find any part of this novel warranting a young adult label...I totally believe it is suitable for 5th and 6th grade readers. It's about twelve-year-old Carolina who is forced to spend the summer helping her parents move her grandfather into a nursing home for dementia against his will. What she really wants to do is spend her summer with friends. When she arrives, it's the last place on earth she wants to be and by the end she can't imagine being anywhere else. Filled with emotion, love and respect for family, and just a touch of fantasy I think this one is worthy of some praise.

If you enjoyed reading Hour of the Bees, you might also like Maybe a Fox and Nightbird

To purchase this book for yourself or donate one to your local school library, follow this link to Amazon...
Hour of the Bees

I anxiously awaited the release of Pax by Sara Pennypacker and the constant positive buzz surrounding this middle grade novel is no surprise. A touching story about the strong bond between a boy and his pet fox, Pax. Peter found Pax as an orphaned kit and after five years is forced to return him to the wild and move 300 miles away to stay with his grandpa while his father, his only surviving parent, serves in the war. Soon after arriving, Peter is distraught over what will happen to Pax and feels terribly guilty for leaving him the way he did, so he decides to hike back home and reunite with his beloved pet. Each chapter alternates between Peter's point of view and that of Pax. This book does contain some graphic violence during a flashback scene involving a fox in a claw trap, and later in the story when a young fox is maimed by a landmine and survives...but it's nothing a fifth grader can't handle. If you have an extra sensitive student, it wouldn't hurt to discuss the events with them so they can make a judgement of their own whether or not to read it (the first incident is chapter 11, page 90-93 and the second is at the end of chapter 19, page 182 and 183) This novel has all of the elements of an award winning star: it's very well written, full of emotional connection to the characters and a page turning story you want to finish but never end.

If you liked Pax, you'll also enjoy reading The Wild Robot and Lost in the Sun

To purchase this book for yourself or donate one to your local school library, follow this link to Amazon...

A Tiny Piece of Sky by Sarah Stout has got to be one of the most exquisitely well written books I've ever read. Several times I stopped to admire the sentence structure and flow of Sarah's writing (total book nerd, I know!)  And she's able to tell the story with such dignified humor...but I have to confess one thing...and it pains me to even think about...there is a pretty massive typo that I bookmarked and returned to several times while reading this story to re-read and re-read...just to be sure I wasn't losing my mind and to confirm it was, in fact, an editorial oversight, and sadly it is, it most undeniably is. That's all I'm going to say about it. I will not tell you where it is...you'll have to find it for yourself. Hey-crap happens. Humans make mistakes, even really good editors. 

If you liked A Tiny Piece of Sky, you'll also enjoy reading Gone Crazy in Alabama and Raymie Nightingale

To purchase this book for yourself or donate one to your local school library, follow this link to Amazon...

Wolf Hollow is the debut novel from Lauren Wolk. One of my favorite things in the whole world is when a debut novel sets the literary world on fire. I borrowed this book from my county library as an eBook because after reading all the raving reviews I just couldn't wait for the book in print, I needed to read it immediately! It certainly did not disappoint, and I predict we'll be hearing a lot more about this wonderful story as we get closer to Newbery Award season...as of this moment right now it is my top pick of the year. Set in a time between two world wars, Annabelle knows only kindness but is shown a darker side of humanity when a cruel new student at school bullies her. Annabelle has to find the strength and courage to stand up for herself without ever having done it before. I believe we are witnessing a classic in the making with Wolf Hollow, and I'd love for you to read this book and tell me what you think about it in the comments.

Visit your local library and check this book out!

If you liked Wolf Hollow, you will also enjoy reading The Paper Cowboy and Pax.

To purchase this book for yourself or donate one to your local school library, follow this link to Amazon...
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Sara, Lost and Found is about two sisters, ten year-old Sara and 12 year-old Anna. Their mother left them for good, and dad sometimes leaves them for weeks at a time doing god knows what. When he is sent to jail, social services come to take the sisters into custody but instead of answering the door they run away. Your heart will break imagining what it would be like for two young girls to have to fend for themselves and then rejoice for them when they are finally surrounded by caring adults who let them be what they are: kids.

If you liked Sara, Lost and Found, you'll also enjoy Summer of the Gypsy Moths and One for the Murphys

You can read this book for free by checking it out at your local public library!

To purchase this book for yourself or donate one to your local school library, follow this link to Amazon...
Sara, Lost and Found by Virginia Castleman

A teacher suggested I read Ruby Holler over a year ago and I finally got around to reading it. I really wish I'd read it sooner so I could've been suggesting it to young readers all this time. Sharon Creech is a wonderful storyteller, and this one was beautifully written and full of great characters. It's the story of twins, Florida and Dallas, who were left at the steps of an orphanage when they were infants. Nicknamed the "Trouble Twins" by the head of the orphanage they spent much of their childhood bouncing in and out of foster homes but always ended up back where they began. They'd given up hope of ever finding a forever home until an eccentric older couple with grown children of their own take them in.

If you liked Ruby Holler, you will also enjoy Pictures of Hollis Woods and Our Only May Amelia

Read it for free from your local public library!

To purchase this book for yourself or donate one to your local school library, follow this link to Amazon...
Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech

If you enjoy reading historical fiction you're going to love these books. While reading The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had I became a huge fangirl of author Kristin Levine and couldn't wait to read The Lions of Little Rock. I was not disappointed. She's a fabulous storyteller. The War That Saved My Life is a 2016 Newbery Honor and I personally think it should've won. You will be pulled into the story within the first few pages and won't want to put it down until you finish the book...and then you won't be able to stop thinking about the characters and wondering what they're doing now. 

To purchase these books for yourself or donate one to your local school library, follow these links to Amazon... 
The War That Saved My Life
The Lions of Little Rock

If you're a teacher thinking about adding these books to your classroom library, check out these links to supportive material on Teachers-Pay-Teachers.

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