The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane by Kate O’Shaughnessy
This is a middle grades road trip story. Maybelle enters a singing contest in hopes of meeting her father and stealing his heart. Only to find out maybe it isn’t his love she really needs.
Coo by Kaela Noel
This sweet middle grades novel is a debut. Coo is a young girl who has been raised by pigeons. While this is completely implausible, it is forgivably so because of Noel’s clever writing and strong characterization. Coo is “rescued” by an unlikely savior who, as it turns out, could use a bit of rescuing herself. Together they team up to care for one another and the pigeons they both love.
Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang
This book is brilliant. I am not sure my words can do it justice. I want to reread it just to study Yang’s craft. He skillfully pulls off a postmodern style by writing about the making of the book as part of the storyline. He made me fall in love with basketball–the history of it, the ritual of it, the love players and fans have for the game itself. He confronts tough issues with pure grace, including racial and gender inequities. This is one I will be sharing for sure!
The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen
When I need a vacation read, I always turn to Sarah Dessen. This book grabbed me right from the start. Dessen has a way of creating setting in which I want to remain and characters who I want to know. Emma Saylor spends the summer discovering her past, embracing her present, and finally forging a future that honors both. This is a light read that touches on issues of social class in an accessible way that teens will take to heart.
Clean Getaway by Nic Stone
This is a fantastic read! William, better known as Scoob, makes a clean getaway from spring break punishment by jumping in his G’ma’s RV. Little does he know he is headed for the road trip of a lifetime! Using his G’pa’s old Green Book as a guide, he and G’ma set out to finish a trip that was cut short many years ago when G’pa was arrested for stealing. Middle grade readers will learn a bit of history on the stops they make along the way, while G’ma reveals family secrets that help Scoob figure out his own identity.
One Little Bag: An Amazing Journey by Henry Cole
My friend elsie recommended this picture book to me, and what a gem it is! The origin story of this paper bag begins multiple turns before the title page and continues through generations. This is a story about conservation, holding on, letting go, and passing along a meaningful legacy. This is one to treasure!
On the Horizon: World War II Reflections by Lois Lowry
Lowry tells her own story of discovering family movie footage of herself as a child playing on a Hawaiian beach with the USS Arizona ship in the distant background. In this poetry collection, Lowry juxtaposes her innocence in that moment with the devastation caused by the attack on Pearl Harbor that ultimately sank the ship. She follows stories of individual lives lost in the Pearl Harbor attack with poetic stories from the nuclear attack on Hiroshima to create a powerfully moving, delicately illustrated collection.
A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat
This is a stunningly beautiful middle grades story about the burning embers in each of us. It is a story about casting light through darkness. Pong and Somkit won my heart as did everyone who helped them along the way. Each time I had to close the cover, I longed to return to the beautiful Thailand-ish fantasy world Soontornvat created. This book is on my list of all-time favorites.
Bea is for Blended by Lindsey Stoddard
This is another great middle grades book by Stoddard about a strong, active, intelligent young girl. It is as honest and real as the rest of Stoddard’s work. Bea is faced with moving from life with her single mother to a house filled with new brothers and pets when her mom gets married. Although family plays an important role in this story, its heart is rooted in Bea’s determination to empower her classmates to establish a girls’ soccer team at their school. One of her stepbrothers, Bryce, represents all that she is up against in a system that would rather she quietly step aside, but it turns out Bea just might be unstoppable!
On the Trapline by David A. Robertson, illustrated by Julie Flett
The story in this beautiful picture book was inspired by Robertson’s visit with his father to a trapline from his father’s childhood. The soft illustrations have a natural feel, perfect to convey the feelings of warmth between father and son as they share memories, Swampy Cree culture, and love. This is a story for all ages–to admire or as a mentor for memoir writers.
The Stars of Whistling Ridge by Cindy Baldwin
This middle grades selection is part magical realism, part mystery, part coming of age, and all heart. Ivy’s family lives on the road, but even though she loves her family, she longs to put down roots in one place she can call home. In a rash move, Ivy makes a dangerous choice to wish for a home. Form that point forward, her world shifts. Suddenly, her mom is called to help her sister, Ivy’s aunt. The family is forced to stay in one place for an extended period of time to help save the town from whatever mysterious force is draining it of magic. Ivy is torn between wanting to help save the town and wanting to avoid getting back on the road after the magic is preserved. Ivy is a lively character that will stay with you beyond these pages.
Delicates by Brenna Thummler
A follow-up to her graphic novel Sheets, this is a continuation of the story of Marjorie and her ghost pals. In addition, readers will also fall in love with a new character, Eliza, who is most at home behind the lens of her camera. The stories of Marjorie, the ghosts, and Eliza intersect in ways that will make even the quietest readers feel seen and heard. Even more so than Sheets, this story is powerfully moving in unexpected ways. This is one worth rereading to study craft and to heal your heart.
An Emotion of Great Delight by Tahereh Mafi
An emotionally powerful story of a complex character, this story packs all of the emotional punch readers have come to expect from Mafi’s work. Shadi is coming of age in 2003, as heightened political tensions spur hatred and negativity against Muslims in the US. In addition to navigating a tumultuous world, she faces challenges in family, friendship, and love. My heart ached and soared along with Shadi’s. Yours will, too.
Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon
Ever since Evie witnessed her dad cheating on her mom, she has sworn off romance. One day, while dumping the last of her romance novel collection at a little free library, an encounter with a mysterious woman leaves Evie with the ability (curse?) to see the entire arc of their relationship each time she witnesses a couple kissing. This chance encounter also sparks a fun series of dancing escapades. At first, Evie’s visions confirm her negative outlook on romance, but as Evie begins to fall for her new dance partner, she uncovers shocking truths. What she learns will change her forever and will remind readers why they should fall in love with not only this book, but also the world all over again.