Random (but not really)

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Kids’ Books: Middle Grades

What is all this about books for kids?

This category was a little more complicated for me, because I don’t remember a lot of the books I read about this age–possibly because I read a lot of Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon, which I loved, but there’s not a lot of variety there.

These are some books I’ve gotten for various small people, but I haven’t read some of them, because I frequently send the books directly to the kids, missing the opportunity to flip through the book before sending it along. So my criteria for picking those books was whether they looked like something *I* wanted to read.

Kelly Barnhill: The Girl Who Drank the Moon (2016) (Female) (Fantasy)

Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the Forest, Xan, is kind. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon. Xan rescues the children and delivers them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey.



Robert Beatty: Serafina and the Black Cloak (2015) (Female)

A brave and unusual girl named Serafina lives secretly in the basement of the grand Biltmore Estate amidst the splendor of the Gilded Age. Serafina’s pa, the estate’s maintenance man, has warned her to keep herself hidden from the fancy folk who live on the floors above, but when children at the estate start disappearing, Serafina and her friend Braeden Vanderbilt must work together to solve a dark and dangerous mystery.


Joanna Cole: Best-Loved Folktales of the World (1982) (Folklore) (Non-WASP)

There are books from my childhood that I turned to time and again, and shaped my future reading. This book is foremost among these.

Because of this book, I have multiple shelves of folk and fairy tales. This book started my fascinating and love of stories from other cultures, times, and places.

Sharon Creech:
Walk Two Moons (1994) (Female) (Non-WASP)

Thirteen-year-old Salamanca Tree Hiddle, proud of her country roots and the “Indian-ness in her blood,” travels from Ohio to Idaho with her eccentric grandparents. Along the way, she tells them of the story of Phoebe Winterbottom, who received mysterious messages, who met a “potential lunatic,” and whose mother disappeared.

The Wanderer (2002)(Female)

Karen Cushman: Catherine Called Birdy (1994) (Female) (History)

Catherine, a spirited and inquisitive young woman of good family, narrates in diary form the story of her fourteenth year—the year 1290.



Roald Dahl:
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar (1977)

This is another book that I read time and again, and that contributed to my love of short stories. Although the title story is very good and has always stuck in my memory, I love all the stories here. They are strange and wonderful and amazing.

THE BOY WHO TALKED WITH ANIMALS
THE HITCHHIKER
THE MILDENHALL TREASURE
THE SWAN
THE WONDERFUL STORY OF HENRY SUGAR
LUCKY BREAK: How I Became a Writer
A PIECE OF CAKE: First Story-1942


Kate DiCamillo: The Tale of Despereaux (2003) (Fantasy)

Welcome to the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse who is in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea. It is also the story of a rat called Roscuro, who lives in the darkness and covets a world filled with light. And it is the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl who harbors a simple, impossible wish. These three characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle, and, ultimately, into each other’s lives.



Deborah Heiligman: Charles & Emma – The Darwin’s Leap of Faith (2009) (Math & Science) (History)

Beginning with Darwin’s notorious chart listing reasons to wed and not to wed, Heiligman has created a unique, flowing, and meticulously researched picture of the controversial scientist and the effect of his marriage on his life and work. Using the couple’s letters, diaries, and notebooks as well as documents and memoirs of their relatives, friends, and critics, the author lets her subjects speak for themselves while rounding out the story of their relationship with information about their time and place. She shows how Darwin’s love for his intelligent, steadfast, and deeply religious cousin was an important factor in his scientific work—pushing him to document his theory of natural selection for decades before publishing it with great trepidation. Just as the pair embodied a marriage of science and religion, this book weaves together the chronicle of the development of a major scientific theory with a story of true love.


Norton Juster: Phantom Tollbooth (1961) (Fantasy)

For Milo, everything’s a bore. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only because he’s got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things seem different. Milo visits the Island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping), learns about time from a ticking watchdog named Tock, and even embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason! Somewhere along the way, Milo realizes something astonishing. Life is far from dull. In fact, it’s exciting beyond his wildest dreams.



Jacqueline Kelly: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (2009) (Female) (Math & Science)

Calpurnia Virginia Tate is eleven years old in 1899 when she wonders why the yellow grasshoppers in her Texas backyard are so much bigger than the green ones.With a little help from her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist, she figures out that the green grasshoppers are easier to see against the yellow grass, so they are eaten before they can get any larger. As Callie explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and comes up against just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.



Madeleine L’Engle:
A Wrinkle in Time (1962), A Wind In the Door (1973), A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978) (Math & Science) (Fantasy)

It was a dark and stormy night. In her attic bedroom Margaret Murry, wrapped in an old patchwork quilt, sat on the foot of her bed and watched the trees tossing in the frenzied lashing of the wind. Behind the trees clouds scudded frantically across the sky. Every few moments the moon ripped through them, creating wraithlike shadows that raced along the ground. The house shook. Wrapped in her quilt, Meg shook. She wasn’t usually afraid of weather.— It’s not just the weather, she thought.— It’s the weather on top of everything else. On top of me. On top of Meg Murry doing everything wrong.



Thanhha Lai: Inside Out and Back Again (2011) (Female) (Non-WASP)

Today is Tet,
the first day
of the lunar calendar.

Every Tet
we eat sugary lotus seeds
and glutinous rice cakes.
We wear all new clothes,
even underneath.

Mother warns
how we act today
foretells the whole year.

Everyone must smile
no matter how we feel.


Ingrid Law: Savvy (2008) (Female) (Fantasy)

Thirteen is when a Beaumont’s savvy hits—and with one brother who causes hurricanes and another who creates electricity, Mibs Beaumont is eager to see what she gets. But just before the big day, Poppa is in a terrible accident. And now all Mibs wants is a savvy that will save him. In fact, Mibs is so sure she’ll get a powerful savvy that she sneaks a ride to the hospital on a rickety bus with her sibling and the preacher’s kids in tow. After this extraordinary adventure—full of talking tattoos and a kidnapping—not a soul on board will ever be the same.



Grace Lin: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (2009) (Female) (Non-WASP)

In the valley of Fruitless mountain, a young girl named Minli lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. In the evenings, her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man on the Moon, who knows the answers to all of life’s questions. Inspired by these stories, Minli sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man on the Moon to ask him how she can change her family’s fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest for the ultimate answer.



L.A. Meyer: Bloody Jack (2002)

Life as a ship’s boy aboard HMS Dolphin is a dream come true for Jacky Faber. Gone are the days of scavenging for food and fighting for survival on the streets of eighteenth-century London. Instead, Jacky is becoming a skilled and respected sailor as the crew pursues pirates on the high seas.

There’s only one problem: Jacky is a girl. And she will have to use every bit of her spirit, wit, and courage to keep the crew from discovering her secret. This could be the adventure of her life–if only she doesn’t get caught.



Sara Pennypacker: Pax (2012)

Pax and Peter have been inseparable ever since Peter rescued him as a kit. But one day, the unimaginable happens: Peter’s dad enlists in the military and makes him return the fox to the wild.

At his grandfather’s house, three hundred miles away from home, Peter knows he isn’t where he should be—with Pax. He strikes out on his own despite the encroaching war, spurred by love, loyalty, and grief, to be reunited with his fox.



Terry Pratchett:
Amazing Maurice & His Educated Rodents (2001), The Wee Free Men (2003), A Hat Full of Sky (2004), Wintersmith (2006), I Shall Wear Midnight (2010) (Fantasy)

I adore Terry Pratchett. His fantasy is both hilarious and politically biting.

These are kids’ books set in Discworld–just the thing to start young readers on the road to hilarious stories.

And the Librarian.

Ellen Raskin:
The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues
The Westing Game
(1978) (Mystery)

A bizarre chain of events begins when sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will. And though no one knows why the eccentric, game-loving millionaire has chosen a virtual stranger—and a possible murderer—to inherit his vast fortune, on things for sure: Sam Westing may be dead… but that won’t stop him from playing one last game!


Rick Riordan:
Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer (2015)
The Lightning Thief (2005) (Mythology)

J.K. Rowling:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1998), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1999), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2001), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003), Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2005), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007) (Fantasy)

Noelle Stevenson:
Lumberjanes Vol 1 (2015)
Nimona (2015) (Female) (Fantasy)

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.



Jeremy Whitley: Princeless:
Save Yourself (2012), Get Over Yourself (2013), The Pirate Princess, Be Yourself, Make Yourself (Female) (Non-WASP) (Fantasy)

Jane Yolen: Hippolyta and the Curse of the Amazons (2002) (Female) (Mythology)

When the Amazons fall victim to an ancient curse, their thirteen-year-old princess must fight beasts and take on great challenges to get things back to normal for the people she loves.


 

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