Saturday, August 1, 2015

Speed Dating with Middle Grade: Part 8

As I write this, I am enjoying my very last weekend of summer vacation. I can't really complain that school is about to start again; I have enjoyed over 9 solid weeks of vacation already, and that's nothing to scoff at!

Last school year was spent working my way through our 20-title Battle of the Books list, along with any other random popular middle grade reads that caught my eye. And though I do really love the middle grade collection, I was starting to feel trapped in a pre-teen world. Summer, then, has been a great opportunity to finally make some headway on my Read Harder Challenge list, enjoying some adult books once again! I've already posted a few of those, and I have a few more in the works, but for now, enjoy this concluding (for now) chapter of middle grade titles!

Title: How They Choked: Failures, Flops, and Flaws of the Awfully Famous
Author: Georgia Bragg
Genre: History, Biography
Read If You Like...: Brief history lessons, stories told with snark, and hearing about other people's flaws
Three-Sentence Thoughts: The lives and mishaps of famous figures in history such as Marco Polo, Isaac Newton, and Amelia Earhart are shared in this collection of short biographies. Written with a light-hearted, sometimes scathing sense of humor, this book ultimately aims to remind readers that these mythic figures were, ultimately, entirely human. As an adult, I am certain these fairly unflattering brief bios leave out many details, but they may appeal to history fans or readers with short attention spans.

Title: Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere
Author: Julie T. Lamana
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Read If You Like...: Stories of disaster, stories of survival, stories of family
Three-Sentence Thoughts: All Armani can think about is her 10th birthday party, but, unfortunately, a hurricane named Katrina is going to shake up her 10th year, changing Armani's life in ways she never would have expected. This is probably the darkest, most serious middle grade book I've encountered, heavy with themes of loss, survival, family, and hope. Despite its 10-year-old protagonist, I would probably recommend it to an older middle schooler or teen reader.

Title: The Witch's Boy
Author: Kelly Barnhill
Genre: Fantasy
Read If You Like...: Fairy tales, the conflicted duo dynamic, and stories about young heroes
Three-Sentence Thoughts: After Ned's identical brother drowns in a rafting accident that could've killed both of them, Ned grows up retreating into silence as the community languishes the fact that perhaps the wrong twin lived. Ned learns, though, that he has been fated to protect a powerful magic, and his only hope may lie with the daughter of the very bandit trying to steal it. This book wasn't totally my cup of tea, but fairy tale or fantasy fans may find it adventurously endearing.

Title: The Penderwicks in Spring
Author: Jeanne Birdsall
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Read If You Like...: Stories about siblings, daily dramas, and innocent childhood fun
Three-Sentence Thoughts: This fourth installment in the Penderwick series jumps a few years later, putting the once-baby Batty and Ben in center stage. With half the Penderwick sisters off at college, this story is told through the eyes of Batty as she works to earn money for singing lessons, her voice being a newfound talent. Definitely darker in theme, handling more serious topics as the youngest Penderwick comes into her own, this is another delightful book in the series, though it lacks the complete Penderwick sister dynamic present in the previous three.

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