Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Speed Dating with Middle Grade: Part 1

At some point (semi-)recently, I noted the irony in being a librarian but never having time to read, and as I mentioned in my year-end summary, that's not entirely true. I have been reading, some. Mostly I've binged on middle grade books over breaks—Fall Break, Thanksgiving Break, Winter Break.

Because one of my two reading goals for the year was to simply post about it, I'm going to do a speed dating-style summary of allllllll that I've read over the past semester. These books have been so enjoyable with a busy schedule, because they're just so wonderfully non-complex—that's the draw of the middle grade genre. Real things can happen, but it's not quite so realistically dramatic and complicated; there's still a titch of innocence there. I frequently just grab books off my shelves and check them out to myself, because I'm dying for that carefree fun!

I've covered quite an array of styles and genres in the recent past. Hopefully something here will entice you!

Title: Liar & Spy
Author: Rebecca Stead
Genre: Realistic, Mystery
Read If You Like...: Quirky stories, sympathetic characters, and poignant, nostalgic self-reflection
Three-Sentence Thoughts: Georges considers himself the lone odd duck in his 7th grade class, until he meets Safer, a coffee-drinking self-proclaimed spy who recruits Georges as another spy in their Brooklyn apartment building. Georges' main struggle, though, is figuring out what's real and what's a lie and if trust is something worth giving. I loved reading Georges' internal musings, because the poignancy of this thoughts trigger that initial entry into the adult world.
Sidenote: This book also has a pretty good message about bullying and how kids can take their own kind of (non-violent) action. I've recommended it to some kids at my school to inspire their own anti-bullying support group.

Title: Buzz!
Author: Ananth Panagariya, Tessa Stone
Genre: Graphic Novel, (somewhat) Fantasy
Read If You Like...: A unique concept, academic humor, and Scott Pilgrim
Three-Sentence Thoughts: This is a world where the spelling bee rules, and our hero Webster has just gotten drawn into the illegal underground spelling bee circuit. Webster is put to the test as he skirts the law and faces the intimidating "big bads" of the competitive bee crowd. The most fun part of this book is the excellent, action-packed art, but I found the story's perspective a little too narrow to really grasp my attention and intrigue and the dialogue to be rather flat.

Title: Mockingbird
Author: Kathryn Erskine
Genre: Realistic
Read If You Like...: Books told through alternating perspectives, serious issues, and affecting stories
Three-Sentence Thoughts: Caitlin is an eleven-year-old with autism having a hard time navigating life without her brother since he was killed in a school shooting. Most often told through Caitlin's perspective, Mockingbird shares her journey of making it through each day as she struggles to understand emotions in situations so strongly affected by it. This is an incredibly moving story that serves a great role in reminding middle schoolers of the importance of perspective and situation while appealing to their growing desire for emotional stories.


Aarti said...

I was just thinking of you this morning! Mockingbird sounds very intense. For some reason, I thought it was an offshoot of To Kill a Mockingbird...

I am reading An Indigenous People's History of the United States, and it reminded me of our buddy read on American westward expansion. It's a REALLY depressing book, but a very good complement to that one.

Aarti said...

Oh, man, I just saw American Dervish in the library and passed it up! I'll have to go back for it next time.

How exciting to get wonderful emails from 2 authors! I have gotten a couple of comments on the blog, but never an email :-)

Kari said...

Ha, that is on my to-read list! Why do we do this to ourselves with the depressing history lessons? ;)

I've just made peace with the fact that I can't read anything remotely serious until summer vacation. If you've got something on your list that could be a good buddy read, let me know if you'd be interested in June or July!