Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Speed Dating with Middle Grade: Part 2

In part 2 of my speed dating series, I've got a lot of school-centered, realistic fiction for middle graders! My students seem to be split between fantasy-lovers and reality-lovers; either they want the total invented world or the one that mirrors their own—there's hardly any in-between! This set of books will appeal to the grounded crowd looking for a relatable story, and these three vary in their tone and level of seriousness.

Title: Trash Can Days: A Middle School Saga
Author: Teddy Steinkellner
Genre: Realistic
Read If You Like...: An ensemble cast, day-to-day drama, and stories about school
Three-Sentence Thoughts: Jake Schwartz is starting junior high alongside his lifelong best friend Danny, but in this new environment the two are wondering if they're all that alike anymore. Meanwhile, Jake's older sister Hannah is suffering the stress that comes with being Queen Bee, and eccentric Dorothy struggles to find junior high as exciting as the fantasy world she lives in. This book is really fun but also has a deeper heavy side with character dialogues and internal monologues that felt dead-on accurate with my junior high memories. [Sidenote: There's a sequel called Trash Can Nights, and I can't wait to read it!]

Title: The Great Greene Heist
Author: Varian Johnson
Genre: Realistic
Read If You Like...: An imperfect but lovable hero, stories set in school, and Ocean's 11
Three-Sentence Thoughts: Jackson Greene is notorious for his schemes and hijinks, but he swears he's a changed man and done with the cons for good—that is, until the smarmy Keith Sinclair declares he's running for SGA president against Jackson's will-they-won't-they "friend," Gaby. Jackson knows Keith is up to no good...and knows he's the only one who can save the school and expose Keith for the cheat and fraud that he is. This well-written caper is funny, entertaining and the ultimate fantasy for all kids who want to make their mark and save the day.

Title: Kinda Like Brothers
Author: Coe Booth
Genre: Realistic
Read If You Like...: Characters you see grow and learn, an urban setting, and stories about home and family
Three-Sentence Thoughts: Jarrett is used to sharing his mom with other kids, since she's been fostering babies for as long as he can remember, but it's completely different when a kid his age named Kevon arrives. Now he has to share his room, his friends, and his whole life with Kevon, and Jarrett doesn't like it—especially when he finds out Kevon is keeping secrets from him and his mom. My students have enjoyed this story because it's realistically relatable without being too heavy, and readers will benefit from reading Jarrett's thoughts and actions as he deals with a tough situation and gains an understanding that his perspective is not the only one.

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