Bee Hive favorites: middle grade fiction
The Metropolitans by Carol Goodman
Four kids Madge, Joe, Walt and Kiku have all had their fair share of tragedies but nothing was more heartbreaking for them then finding out that Pearl Harbor has been attacked and that New York was next. These children embark on a wondrous journey to help save the city from a Nazi attack. On their adventure you will see them grow and learn the heroism, power and bravery they had inside of them, with a little help from the encouragement from each other, magic, and the strength of King Arthur and his court. This book has it all! Mystery-when they have to decode the clues to stop the evil two faced Nazi. Fantasy- as King Arthur and his court give the children their fearlessness and hope. Historical aspects- as they tell us what happened in the world during World War II. This book gives us courageous, confident, and cunning children that any child, and even adult, could identify with. This book is truly a spectacular piece of literature that I would recommend to anyone that needs hope, bravery, and an exceptional read.
See You In The Cosmos by Jack Cheng
Alex’s story is filled with happiness, hopefulness, and willpower to discover the truth with what happened to his father, the bravery he has within himself, and the love he has with the support of an unconventional family. Alex Petroski, eleven years old but at least thirteen in responsibility years, embarks on a journey from Colorado to New Mexico, and Las Vegas to L.A… During his adventures he records his experiences on his Golden iPod to show other life-forms what life is like on earth. He plans to launch his Golden iPod into space just as his hero Carl Sagan did in 1977. During this expedition Alex receives help from wonderful, kind, off track and unforgettable friends he meets along the way. This is truly a heartwarming story about Alex and his view of the complex world he lives in, this book will keep you enticed until the very last page.
The Inquisitor’s Tale or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz
Adam Gidwiz writes a tale how it should be told, through the voices of many villagers. This compelling illustrated manuscript will make you fall in love with all the characters big or small. This book is a wonderful tale about three very different children, who are considered to be saints, who come together to fight the injustices that they see. Their greatest challenge is their fight against the king and his part in the Inquisition. The Inquisitor’s Tale is based upon historical events, people, and legends from the middle ages. If you enjoy adventure stories, stories with historical background, humor, beautiful illustrations and hope than this is the book for you. I would also recommend reading the authors note after you finish the story to learn more about the history that inspired this book.
The Scourge by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Another great story from Nielsen. This book will lead you on a courageous tale alongside Ani, a strong, independent and smart girl, who with the help of her friend, Weevil, sets out to discover a cure for the plague that has devastated the entire country. Ani and Weevil have contracted the disease and are sent to Attic Island, a quarantine colony for the ill. Through this journey they discover a few incredible friends that help them uncover the secrets Attic Island is holding. The Scourge is an incredible book that made me want to keep reading until the very satisfying end. Truly an amazing read if you are looking for a story with adventure that will make you laugh.
The Best Man by Richard Peck
Archer is a lucky sixth-grader. He has four amazing role models to look up to: his father, his grandfather, his uncle, and the first male teacher his school has ever had. But he’s also a preteen in the modern world where everything is changing quickly and stories go viral online. He deals with this and more while learning just what it takes to be a man, including how to handle his uncle falling in love with his teacher. Bookended by two weddings and featuring an excellent narrator (who tends to get ahead of himself in his storytelling), The Best Man is a happy and heart-warming story about a family readers are sure to love.
Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi
Alice lives in the magical world of Ferenwood where she doesn’t quite fit in. She has no friends and even her mother seems not to care for her. Her father, the only person she’s sure really loves her, disappeared three years ago with only a ruler in his hand. Alice joins Oliver, a boy who she can’t trust at all, on a mission to the unbelievably more magical land of Furthermore in an attempt to find her father and get them all safely home. With a delightful narrator and rich, enchanting descriptions, this story encourages you to embrace adventure and to be happy with who you are, quirks and all.
Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Lots of drama happens both on stage and off in this fun graphic novel by the New York Times best-selling author. Callie is a middle schooler obsessed with theatre (and boys), and she is determined to make this year’s production great. Plenty of challenges arise, but whether its malfunctioning props or frustrating relationships, Callie and her classmates find ways to overcome them all. An excellent look both into the backstage crew responsible for getting any show running and into the diverse set of characters found in the confusing world of middle school.
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Ally is a sixth grader who is ashamed that she still can’t read; she is dyslexic but doesn’t know it. She thinks she just isn’t as smart as her classmates (and several not-so-nice ones agree), and she can’t seem to help but disrupt class and get into trouble. One day, Ally gets a new teacher who sees that she really is a smart kid and goes out of his way to help her succeed. With her newfound confidence, she makes real friends for the first time, and they take a stand against those who haven’t been kind. Fish in a Tree is highly relatable and an excellent book for anyone who ever felt like they didn’t fit in with their peers.
Jacky Ha-Ha by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
Jacky Hart is a seventh grader who turned her stutter into a comedy routine but is now the troublemaking class clown. Her constant joke-telling is her distraction from the fact that her mother is a marine serving abroad and her father has a new female friend and is hardy ever at home. When she racks up twenty detentions in the first week of school, the assistant principal decides Jacky should funnel her creative energy into a role in the school play. With great illustrations and an important message, Jacky Ha-Ha is both a funny read and a tear-jerker that parents and children alike will enjoy.
Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo
In the newest novel by Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo, Raymie’s father has run away with a dental hygienist. But Raymie has a plan: she signs up for baton-twirling class, hoping this new skill will help her win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire 1975 competition, and that her father will see her picture in the paper and come back home. At her first class she meets Louisiana Elefante (of the famous Flying Elefantes) who also hopes to win the contest, and Beverly Tapinski who hopes to sabotage it. The three lonely girls decide to team together on several missions and eventually become friends in this simple story with a dramatic conclusion.
Maybe a Fox by Sara Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee
A heartbreakingly beautiful story about two sisters: Jules, the rock collector, and Sylvie, the fastest girl in her school. When Sylvie runs into the woods on a snowy day and disappears, Jules must learn to live in the world After Sylvie. Meanwhile a magic fox is born with a burning to desire to find the Someone she’s searching for. Written in the voices of both Jules and the fox, this book leads readers on an emotional yet hopeful journey about dealing with loss.
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
When she was eight years old, Bridge survived a serious accident, and a nurse tells her she “must have been put on this earth for a reason.” Now thirteen, Bridge is wondering what that reason could be. While navigating seventh grade and plenty of middle school drama, we learn about her two best friends who promise never to fight, her probably-not boyfriend, and an unnamed girl who is skipping school on Valentine’s Day to avoid dealing with a huge betrayal. Goodbye Stranger is a great book about love and friendship and their ability to weather change.
Secrets of the Dragon Tomb by Patrick Samphire
(*Deep breath*) SO… it’s the 19th century, in a world where the discovery of dragon tunnels has resulted in transportation to – and thus the British colonization of – Mars, where Edward Sullivan and his sisters are found braving the elements and totally bizarre creatures across the brutal Martian wilderness all to save their family from the clutches of the evil Sir Titus and stop his greedy quest to exploit an undiscovered dragon tomb full of technological treasures which he plans to sell to Napoleon who plans on conquering the world…! Yeah, it’s that exciting.
Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar
Fifth grader Tamaya Dhilwaddi follows the rules. Every day she walks to and from school with her neighbor, seventh grader Marshall Walsh. When Marshall changes their route one day to avoid the school’s notorious bully, Chad Hilligas, the pair find themselves in the depths of the woods where no one is allowed. What they discover spreads into a series of mysterious events that has the whole community – and the world – concerned for its fate. This thriller will consume your attention to the very end.
The Toymaker’s Apprentice by Sherri L. Smith
This is a great holiday book for both boys and girls. Inspired by E.T.A. Hoffman’s The Nutcracker, Smith’s retelling is a fun and fresh approach to a classic. Stefan is nearing the end of his apprenticeship at his father’s toy shop when one day his mysterious cousin Christian shows up. Christian is on a mission to defeat the mice that have waged war on the residents of Boldavia, and he needs help. When the mice kidnap Stefan’s father, he has no choice but to help his cousin. Follow along through the many twists and turns of Stefan’s journey. Will he find his father? Will the war between the humans and mice of Boldavia finally come to an end?
The Marvels by Brian Selznick
The Marvels begins with nearly 400 pages of uninterrupted illustration in which Selznick masterfully draws the story of the Marvel family. The illustrations come to an abrupt end when the second half of the book commences. It is here that Selznick transitions to prose, and when readers meet Joseph, a 13 year-old boarding school runaway who is hoping to find refuge in his Uncle’s house in London. As Joseph’s story unfolds, readers begin to wonder how the two seemingly separate narratives connect. Slowly, the pieces come together and readers won’t be disappointed to discover that nothing is as it seems.
Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
Jackson’s going into fifth grade, he’s a connoisseur of facts, and his family is on the verge of homelessness again when his imaginary friend, a human-size cat named Crenshaw who’s fond of purple jellybeans and bubble baths, suddenly returns. In a way this is a good thing—Jackson could use a friend to talk to—but it’s also challenging: Crenshaw keeps encouraging Jackson to be honest with himself and his friends, which is not always what Jackson wants to do. This middle-grade novel by the author of the popular Animorphs series tackles difficult emotions and situations with humor and compassion—it’s a wise, straightforward story about friendship and family, with a very big heart.
Appleblossom the Possum by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Appleblossom is the littlest possum in her litter, and she may also be the sweetest. After her mama has taught her and her twelve siblings the ins and outs and ups and downs of being a possum in the modern world (watch out for cars, and dogs, and humans!), Appleblossom and her brothers and sisters are sent off to find their own food and make their own way. But what will Appleblossom do when she accidentally falls down a chimney and ends up stuck in a house full of the most feared monsters of all: humans? Told in a warm, clear voice and full of endearing illustrations, this book is a fantastic bridge between beginner and middle reading levels, perfect for any child who adores animals and enjoys imagining the world through their eyes.
The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
Lucky for us, the intrepid Callie Vee is back in this sequel to The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. The year is 1900, and she’s just seen her first snowfall in her hometown of Fentress, Texas, which seems like a good omen for her thirteenth year. Her favorite hours are spent honing her observational skills in the company of her grandfather, a renowned naturalist and scientist, and helping her younger brother Travis tend to one of the many animals he’s secretly adopted: an armadillo, a raccoon, a coyote-dog that no one else wants. Her less-favorite hours are spent practicing the piano and defending her rights as the only girl in a family of six boys. But when a hurricane hits Galveston and a few refugees from the destroyed coastal city move to Fentress, life takes some unexpected turns. A beautifully written novel with a heroine who’s smart, sly, funny, always curious, and not at all squeamish.
The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove
The historical and the fantastical mix and meld in this debut novel (the first in a trilogy!) set in a world that’s been forever altered by the Great Disruption, a mysterious event that left the different lands and peoples of Earth located in different times. Cartology, or mapmaking, is the most important skill in this fractured world, and thirteen-year-old Sophia Tims’s uncle, Shadrack Elli, happens to be one of the foremost cartologers in Boston, their hometown. But when Shadrack is kidnapped, Sophia leaves everything she’s known and, with the help of Theo, an orphaned refugee from the Baldlands, ventures into realms full of raiders, pirates, and wraiths in an attempt to save her uncle’s life. Readers who loved Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy will want to check out this adventurous, intricately imagined tale.
Ms. Rapscott’s Girls by Elise Primavera
On the first day of summer term at Great Rapscott School for Girls of Busy Parents, five flying boxes land at the door of a tall white lighthouse, and out climb Beatrice, Mildred, Fay, Annabelle, and … well, Dahlia’s gotten lost somewhere in transit! The students are greeted by Ms. Rapscott, the stern and smart headmistress of this unusual boarding school, and Lewis and Clark, her highly organized corgi companions. Together they look for Dahlia, learning all kinds of lessons along the way, such as How to Get Lost On Purpose, How to Turn Bad Luck into Good Luck, and why it’s good to be like a cantaloupe. A wise, funny tale about the importance of adventure and the joys of taking the Less Traveled Road.
Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley
Years ago, when he was a boy, Ephraim Tuttle was gifted a single miracle by the magical Man Who Bends Light, from the magical Circus Mirandus, to be used for whatever he wished. Now he’s nearing the end of his life, and it’s time to use his miracle. His grandson, Micah, wants nothing more than for his grandfather to live forever … but is that what Ephraim has asked for? Micah’s determined to make sure his grandfather’s wish is granted— which isn’t an easy feat. A rollicking adventure ensues, as full of twists and turns (and love) as the magical knots that both Micah and his grandfather know how to tie. You too could be enchanted and inspired by Circus Mirandus—but you’ll only get to visit this wise and wondrous world if you’re willing to believe in it!
Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Germinating in a fairy tale, this genre-defying masterpiece is storytelling at its finest. Decades after Otto meets three mysterious sisters in a forbidden forest, three children—Friedrich in German, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California—are gripped by the magic of a very special harmonica. As World War II shakes their lives, the invisible thread of destiny leads the three children on their tumultuous individual journeys, and eventually weaves their stories together in a profound, reverential conclusion. As a prophecy is fulfilled, the meandering justice of fate celebrates the beauty of life.
Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell
Will lives on a Zimbabwean farm with her father and best friend, with whom she runs free and wild. But when disaster transpires, Will is sent away to an elite boarding school in England, where her classmates are more ferocious than the lions of home. Will is not prepared for the viciousness of ‘civility,’ so, determined to redesign her future, sets off into the London wilderness. A brave, fierce heroine champions this story of facing adversity with your own style.
Space Case by Stuart Gibbs
Never mind that he’s one of the first humans living on the moon, twelve-year old Dashiell Gibson is bored. He spends his days cooped up inside the lunar base, where he sleeps in claustrophobic pods, eats awful rehydrated food, and has to endure the annoying presence of billionaire space tourists. But the monotony of lunar life is disrupted when one of the scientists turns up dead. Was Dr. Holtz’s death a senile accident (he was getting on in years, after all) as all the adults seem to believe, or as Dash suspects, was foul play at hand? Join him for an exciting and suspenseful space murder mystery quest.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Brown Girl Dreaming is a narrative of childhood boldly unfurled in poetic form. It is a tale of bifurcated homes in a divided country, of a family’s journey across a nation’s politics. Beneath the blisters of pain and anguish, there is a resilient core of faiths and reasons of communities and friends. Among the lyrics of coming of age, Jacqueline Woodson builds dreams brimming with poignant power and love.
All Four Stars by Tara Dairman
Think crafting crème brulee is beyond the abilities of an eleven year old? Not for Gladys Gatsby, 6th grade chef extraordinaire. Her obstacle to pursuing her passion? Parents with bland, gray, rubbery taste buds, and absolutely no understanding of her interest. When they discover Gladys has been cooking up a storm under their microwave-loving noses, they ban her from any further food endeavors. They want Gladys to go to the mall, play computer games, and make friends. But, when Gladys writes an essay detailing her dream of becoming a food critic, it is selected for submission to a contest at New York’s biggest newspaper. Suddenly, her bland suburban life is filled with spice! The essay lands in the hands of an editor, who believes it was written by a real food critic, and hires Gladys to write a freelance review. Can Gladys find a way to keep her assignment secret from her parents? And can she keep her identity from her new employer? The recipe for success calls for friends, smarts, and spirit.
Greenglass House by Kate Milford
Milo Pine is accustomed to strange characters. After all, his parents own a ramshackle, mismatched smugglers inn. But, one winter break, when all Milo wants is a quiet Christmas, an influx of unexpected and mysterious guests—mysterious even for Milo—gather just before a snowstorm strikes. As the weather rages, items begin to go missing. Using the tools of a role playing game, Milo and his new friend Meddy (the cook’s daughter) begin excavating the stories and motives of this strange group. Who is the thief, and how are the guests connected? With folkloric threads, and fantastical twists, readers will be feverishly immersed in the suspense until the end. For lovers of the Westing Game and the Mysterious Benedict Society, this is a must read!
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Nobody Owens is nearly normal. He’s just a boy growing up in England, only his family was brutally murdered when he was a baby, and he was adopted by ghosts. In the sprawling, historic graveyard that is now his home, Nobody (called Bod) is educated by a community of the dead, and cared for by a guardian who is neither living nor ghost. But, if Bod leaves the protection of the graveyard, his family‘s murderer—a man named Jack—can find him. A magical and macabre tale set in the most unusal and capivating circumstance, Neil Gaiman’s breathtaking novel deserves its Newberry medal, and more.
Wonder by R.J Palacio
Born with facial abnormalities, August Pullman is not your average ten year old boy. He’s had more surgeries than he can count, and has been called every word for ‘freak’ under the sun. Home schooled his whole life, now, for the first time, he’s going to regular school. Simply told, and boldly stated, this book is written from the perspectives of August, his family, and his new classmates. The threads of pain, difference, bravery and redemption are beautifully woven into a tear-jerking tale of an exceptional boy navigating the maze of middle school, and life.
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
“Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?” This mysterious newspaper ad unites four children, each recruited for their unique brilliance, under the auspices of the most unusual Mr. Benedict. Having uncovered pieces of a plot to brainwash the world, Mr. Benedict sends the children into the nefarious Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened to foil its leader’s villainous plans. A fresh, whimsical spin on familiar tropes, this is a story of thinking outside the box, speaking the truth, and of course, the necessity of friendship. Even after 500 hundred pages, it’s a relief this is only the first book in a remarkable trilogy.
The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeane Birdsall
This is the third book in the series that follows the tenacious and lovable girls in the Penderwick family; Rosalind the eldest, feisty Skye, dreamy Jane, and shy little Batty. Rosalind is spending her summer at the beach while the rest of the family goes to cozy Aunt Claire’s cottage in Maine. What adventures will befall them? Dog-mishaps, musicians, moose and more. You will enjoy the quiet nostalgia and witty dialogue. Ages 8-12
Knight’s Castle by Edward Eager
Very much in the style of C.S. Lewis! Two pairs of cousins thrown together by circumstances must make do in playing with each other. They soon encounter magic in the form of toy soldiers come alive, leading to a full-on adventure lived in another land and time. Told in a clever yet chatty and reassuring narrative, this book is well-written and intelligent. An old-fashioned story but one that any kid will enjoy!
The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata
A sweet story about a thoughtful and sensitive twelve-year old girl who takes on an extra responsibility for her family. Summer’s grandparents are demanding and sometimes obnoxious, and her brother is socially challenged, but the love between them all is real. What makes this book especially good is the narrative voice: Summer comes through as a clear and wise young adult who grows admirably with her new experiences. Award-winning!
Candleman – The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance by Glenn Dakin
This is a thrilling book for both boys and girls. Theo is an incredibly unique boy with the amazing ability to melt evil with his touch. Mysteries abound, ancient gargoyles come to life, and along with the Society of Unrelenting Vigilance, friendship and honor are at the core of what could appear to be a very dark and macabre world. A great bit of fantasy to get lost in, and after all the excitement of this book, there’s a sequel, Candle Man – The Society of Dread!
Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
A sequel to award-winning The Wednesday Wars, this book is a powerful testament to how good friends change us for the better! Doug, who struggles with an abusive father, moves to a new town, a ‘dump’. But he finds here a supportive school teacher, a classmate and best friend, and most particularly he discovers a love for art in the form of Audobon’s ilustrations… This book is well-written and true to experience; what makes it so powerful is that it is certainly not all roses. Doug navigates the gritty and difficult experiences of life as himself, but learns that his self may be better than he thought. I just had to keep reading this book!
Addie on the Inside by James Howe
Even if you haven’t read The Misfits and Totally Joe, you will definitly appreciate this book’s view into Addie’s life. Addie knows how to stand up for her beliefs and opinions but in seventh grade there are always consequences for not blending in. Addie’s life is realistic; full of challenges in school and with friends, but her main challenge is to work her way out of any box that might prevent her from being true to herself. Addie on the Inside is delightfully written in verse and feels fresh as a result. You will love her strength, vulnerablility and honesty.
Under the Egg by Laura Max Fitzgerald
Tough, perceptive, and funny, Theodora lives the odd life of a girl who must take care of her mother while living in complete poverty. Her grandfather’s dying words– “It’s Under the Egg”– prompt a wonderful mystery adventure in pursuit of an inheritance. This book is immediately engaging and very well-written; the characters are new and alive. This is an upbeat, clever, and ingenious book much along the lines of Joan Aiken’s Black Hearts in Battersea. Highly recommended!
Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
Down-to-Earth and heartwarming, this is the story of Flora, a girl, and a delightful superhero squirrel. As in DiCamillo’s other books, we find here a great tenderness in the story and characters. Both Flora and the squirrel find love and develop new trust in the adventures that unfold after Ulysses’ superhero transformation. Not a stupid book! Difficult to put down, and truly beautiful in its ultimate kindness.
Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman
This is Neil Gaiman’s newest, and it is hilarious! The story is a father’s account of a milk-buying expedition to his eminently reasonable daughter. Those familiar with Neil Gaiman’s style will recognize and love it. The story feels like A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for a wider range of ages, with expressively quirky illustrations reminiscent of Quentin Blake. It is unconventional in many ways–Gaiman plays delightfully on classic fantasy stories. The best reversal of expectations is the self-aware ridiculousness of it all; we don’t have to trick ourselves into believing a story to find it decidedly worthwhile.
Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan, Illustrated by John Rocco
Is it educational? Yes. Hysterical? Of course. Dry and witty and fascinating? You got it. This is it, Riordan fans. THE book you’ve been waiting for. I mean…even the Table of Contents is an entertainment. “The Beginning and Stuff. The Golden Age of Cannibalism. Poseidon Gets Salty. Hephaestus Makes Me a Golden Llama (Not Really, But He Totally Should).” Need I say more? Ok, John Rocco’s illustrations are mythic.
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
Published in 1944, this Newberry Honor book is a timeless tale of three young girls and their desire to belong. For some, that desire leads to thoughtless exclusion and hurt feelings. For others, the power of imagination becomes a survival technique. In this warm and honest story, the girl-drama ultimately leads to compassion and new-found ability to see one another.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
Oh, to be twelve, exploring the natural world and uncovering its mysteries! Calpurnia Virginia Tate, known as Callie Vee, has an unquenchable desire learn everything about the natural world around her. Set in Texas at the turn of the 20th century, Callie is the only girl in a family full of boys, and what’s more, she is expected to behave like a lady! But Callie dreams of becoming more, at least more than what’s expected from a young girl of her time. Great characters, family dynamics, historical references, and just plain good writing. We need more characters who are as ambitious, and insightful, as Callie Vee.
Undrowned Child by Michelle Lovric
Teodora, voracious reader, comes to Venice in troubled times. With a friend and a magical secret guidebook to the city, Teodora fights the repulsive characters who arise from th…e past to exact vengeance on the city. Steeped in history and knowledge of the city, this book is well-written, funny, and magical. The mermaids (who learned to speak from sailors) are unmatchable! “My gib was atwitch, I might of knowed it. Human childer do smell most peculiarly, I do declare freely!” A great and original read. (ages 9 to 12)
The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz
From Newberry Award-winning author Laura Amy Schlitz, (Splendors and Glooms, A Drowned Maiden’s Hair) comes this little gem of a book for readers ages 7-10. Flory is a night fa…iry by nature, but when a bat accidentally injures her wings, she must learn to survive in the daytime, without flying. “Sunshine made her eyes water, which made her irritable. It is always prettier when fairies are not irritable, but Flory could not help herself. She missed her wings, and she had to make a whole new life for herself, with no one to show her how.” Flory becomes incredibly resourceful surviving in the backyard garden of a friendly giant, yet she is reluctant to learn that she can’t always orchestrate other creatures to get her way. A wonderful story for beginning readers, it also makes for a delightful read-aloud.
The Apprentices by Maile Meloy
Meloy’s thrilling sequel to her award-winning “The Apothecary” is every bit as good as its predecessor, bringing to bear the same inventive blend of magic, medicine, science, history, and politics. Janie and Benjamin are 16 now, and beginning to grapple with big issues: how do you keep jealousy and loneliness from overcoming love? How do you confront injustice and suffering? How do you grieve, and how do you open yourself to joy? Adventurous, thought-provoking and romantic (but never really graphic), this is a wonderful follow-up for age 10+ readers who enjoyed “The Apothecary.”
The Emily Windsnap Series by Liz Kessler
This fantastic fantasy follows a twelve-year-old half-mermaid, half-human girl named Emily Windsnap who lives with her mother on a boat by the seaside. When Emily takes swimming lessons, she discovers that in the water, her legs become a fish tail. Her mother doesn’t seem to remember anything about mermaids or Emily’s father. Over the course of the series Emily explores the undersea world of mermaids, friendships and mysteries.
The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages
Told from the alternating perspectives of two girls that don’t quite fit in, this book won the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction in 2006. It’s Los Alamos, 1943-1945, and …none of the kids on “the Hill” know exactly what the gadget is that their parents are always working on, but they know it is supposed to end the war. Dewey is busy making her own gadgets, building a radio from the instructions in “The Boy Mechanic,” and Suze is figuring out how much she enjoys making art while her mom is away at the lab. With these intelligent female protagonists, this story celebrates curiosity, creativity and the incredible power of science in an educational and emotionally resonant read for middle graders. A great choice both for students interested in local history and for preteen girls who may struggle to feel like they belong.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
This year’s Newberry Medal Winner is a story told from the perspective of a gorilla who is also an artist. It’s based on the true story of Ivan, a gorilla who lived in a …mall for three decades before he was moved to a zoo; and was known for his original paintings, which he signed with a thumbprint. When Ivan makes a new friend, Ruby, the baby elephant, he feels called to protect her, and uses his artwork to envision a different life. Beautifully written in short, simple paragraphs rich with humor, insight, and feeling, Katherine Applegate has created an unforgettable read.
Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin
Rendi is on the run from his home when he starts working at an inn at the Village of Clear Sky, and the moon is missing from the sky; at night, he hears the sky moaning for… it. When a mysterious storyteller arrives at the inn, she begins to tell stories about the moon, and Rendi begins to tell stories about the home he left behind. Through the stories, Rendi begins to piece together how the moon came to fall from the sky, and how they can each find their way home. Fans of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon will love this companion novel from Grace Lin and will recognize some of their favorite characters in the Chinese folktales woven throughout. New readers will be enchanted by this magical story replete with Lin’s exquisite full-color illustrations.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
Edward was a china rabbit who lived on Egypt street; “Edward did not care at all for the word bunny. He found it derogatory in the extreme.” A rather arrogant rabbit, Edward is adored by a girl named Abilene, but he doesn’t think much of humans, including her family. One night Abilene’s grandmother tells Edward and Abilene a bedtime story about a princess who loves no one and gets turned into a warthog. “How can a story end happily if there is no love?” the Grandmother says. When Edward gets separated from Abilene, these words stay with him throughout many toils in love and loss. As his heart breaks over and over, Edward slowly finds it in himself to love others, learning the meaning of the princess’ story and that of his own. On par with the likes of The Velveteen Rabbit and Holly & Ivy, this book for middle readers is among the most beautiful and heart-wrenching of stories about very special toys with a life of their own. A perfect choice for a bedtime read-aloud.
The Flint Heart by Katherine Paterson & John Paterson, Illustrated by John Rocco
Quirky, magical, and full of twists, this is the latest treasure from Living Legend Katherine Paterson in collaboration with her husband John Paterson and acclaimed Disney art director John Rocco. Surviving from the Stone Age, the Flint Heart is a magical stone that hardens the heart of any creature who touches it. When it lands in the hands of their father, children Charles and Unity must find a way to put a stop to the mischief caused by its dark magic. In their mission, they must travel into Fairyland, where they meet a host of vivid and eccentric animal and fairy characters, and even a hot water bottle from Germany. The delightful contents of the story and its colorful illustrations, as well as the size of the print herein make this an ideal book for the reader transitioning out of Beginner series books like Magic Tree House into the next level.
The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech
When a boy named Finn falls out of a tree into the lives of Naomi and her best friend Lizzie, they are pulled into a life that connects them to a fairy ring in Ireland, two people and two dogs across the ocean from their little town of Blackbird Tree. A beautifully spun tale of sisterhood, the mysterious unexpected unfolding of life, and “the gossamer thread that connects us all.”
The Templeton Twins Have an Idea (Book 1) by Ellis Weiner, Illustrated by Jeremy Holmes
As told by a delightfully sarcastic and self-congratulatory narrator, this is the story of two amazingly clever twins, their father, Professor Templeton, the inventor, his angry former student Dean D. Dean, their nanny, Nan Noonan, and their persistently ridiculous dog. When the family moves to the campus of Tick-Tock Tech University, everything seems to run like clockwork, until they discover that someone has it out on them. As the narrator tells us, “The Templeton Twins must use all their cleverness to foil kidnappers and blah blah blah.” Full of humor and intrigue, and bursting with diagrams, pictures, and puzzles to engage the reluctant reader, this is a wonderful new book promising an exciting new series!
The Unwanteds: Island of Silence By Lisa McMann
The much-anticipated second book in the Unwanteds series. Touted as the combination of Harry Potter and the Hunger Games, fans of both will love the fast-paced adventures of twins Alex and Aaron, separated into the Wanted group of scholars in the land of Quill and the Unwanted creative types. In this installment, the battle between them has ended and the people of Quill discover Artimé, the place where the Unwanteds use their artistic abilities as magic. With the two groups allowed to mingle for the first time, the stories of the estranged twins intertwine as Aaron plots the revenge of Quill against the Unwanteds, including his brother.
Wildwood by Colin Meloy
Prue McKeel is babysitting her little brother Mac on the playground when he is abducted from his red Radio Flyer wagon by a murder of crows. Her search for him leads her directly into the Impassable Wilderness, an area beyond her home city of Portland where every child is warned never to go. In the depths of Wildwood we encounter a well-imagined animal bureaucracy recalling both Animal Farm and Narnia. The characters of Wildwood are very finely drawn both in the story and its accompanying illustrations by Carson Ellis. From the singer-songwriter of The Decemberists, this is the first installment in what promises to be a wonderful, fantastical trilogy for middle readers. Buckle your bicycle helmet and prepare for a wild adventure! –Áine
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
Wandering the American Museum of National History in New York fifty years apart, Rose and Ben are woven together through Selznick’s richly illustrated, beautifully imagined, and purely wonder-filled book. Through over 460 pages of artwork set in 1927, we follow Rose as she chronicles the life of an enigmatic screen actress in a scrapbook and sets off on a quest inspired by an intriguing newspaper headline. In 1977, Ben’s own adventure begins with a bolt of lightning and a mysterious bookmark as he longs to know the father he never got to meet. “Maybe, thought Ben, we are all cabinets of wonders.” Fans of Hugo and readers age 9 and up will be breath-taken by this book! –Áine
The Apothecary by Maile Meloy
In the climate of Cold War London, recent ex-pat American Janie befriends a British apothecary and his son, and before she knows it, finds herself entangled in their mission to hide their secrets from Soviet spies. Adventure is brewing in The Apothecary where the other-worldly power of alchemical science is all that can stop the real-world threat of nuclear disaster. An intelligent and wondrous book for middle readers! -Áine
Chomp by Carl Hiaasen
Join Wahoo Cray, his gator-wrangling dad, and their family of animals as they try to help a reality-TV host survive in the wild Florida Everglades. A wacky, funny, and fast-paced adventure full of incredible wildlife and the constant danger of getting chomped! –Áine
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
It’s on the first day of eleventh grade that Leo Borlock first hears her name: Stargirl. Mica Area High School does not know how to make sense of this new girl: her wacky outfits, the way she plays the ukulele in the cafeteria, and worst of all, that when she joins the cheerleading squad, she cheers for both teams. As the school turns against her, Leo tries to teach her what it is to be “normal,” while Stargirl shows him how to be selfless and, ultimately, what it means to be yourself. Rich with imagery of the Southwest and memorable archetypes of the high school experience, this book is acclaimed by critics and beloved by parents, teachers, and young readers alike. This is the book that got me through adolescence: it is an anthem of nonconformity that every middle-schooler should read! Reading level: ages 11 and up. –Áine
Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech
Jack is learning about poetry in Mrs. Stretchberry’s class as he keeps a journal of his own original blank verse poems. He doesn’t believe that they have to rhyme like his college professor-uncle tells him, but he does rhyme in his own way as he begins writing about the neighborhood cat: I hate that cat, like a dog hates a rat. A story told in poems, Jack’s voice is an accessible and refreshing counterpoint to the ways children often learn to hate poetry in school and a celebration of young people finding their own writing style. (Reading level: ages 8 and up.) –Áine