All posts in Reading Lists: Grades 3-5

My 2018 Newbery Predictions

My 2018 Newbery Predictions

The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

A Newbery Book Should Have Broad Age Appeal

There’s nothing worse, in my mind, with a Newbery winner that is too high such that only the most advanced elementary school readers can attempt it. The Westing Game is a good example of that for me. It won in 1978.

A Newbery Winner Does Not Have to be Middle Grade Chapter Book

Last’s year picture book surprise, Last Stop on Market Street, opened up the possibility that other genres are being seriously considered. Both Roller Girl and El Deafo took home Newbery Honor prizes too, putting graphic novels right in the hunt.

The Newbery Seeks Diversity?

Winning a Newbery does have a significant financial impact for an author which can not be underestimated. This award can affect what might get published in the future, showing that diversity books appeal to a broader audience than the characters they represent. Brown Girl Dreaming is a good example of that in showing the world that a girl about a brown girl would be read by non-brown girls.

p.s. My Caldecott/Newbery predictions are here: 2017201620152014, and 2013.

 

My 2018 Newbery Predictions

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

The only reason I suspect that this book won’t get Newbery recognition is because of previous honors via The One and Only Ivan which won in 2013. But this story is remarkable in its spareness that still conveys exquisite detail of multi-generations of intertwining stories as told by a special tree who has been rooted in place for centuries, assisting in the making of wishes come true. Applegate adds in an especially relevant theme of anti-Muslim bigotry which is a Very Important Message, pushing this book, at least for me, into Newbery recognition territory. It’s a kind of Charlotte’s Web meets [chapter book, ages 8 and up]

The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla

Charlie has OCD and possibly also has Aspergers Syndrome. Accommodating his needs leads his crew on a cross country trip in search of birds in a circuitous path that finalizes at a hospital in Virginia caring for their brain damaged father. While Charlie’s siblings are on this trip — three siblings with their own strong personalities — it’s their caregiver, the mysterious Ludmila whose own backstory they discover throughout the course of their journey, that ties her, indirectly, to their father. And it’s during this adventure that includes meeting an assortment of people that pushes Charlie out of his usual routine and into a quest for both birds and a chance to meet a mysterious ornithologist that inspires him. Weaving these backstories together to such a satisfying ending is what makes this book Newbery caliber for me. It reminds me of Walk Two Moons and Moon Over Manifest, yet Pla manages to tie even more backstories together which is quite a feat. All the more remarkable that this is her debut book! [chapter book, ages 8 and up]

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Middle Grade Humor for Boys and 3 Signed Book GIVEAWAY!

Middle Grade Humor for Boys and 3 Signed Book GIVEAWAY!

Please welcome author Mark Maciejewski with a book list on how to get boys reading, even reluctant ones. His answer? Humor! It works! He wrote a hilarious book about a bald, middle school outcast and we are giving away three signed copies!

I Am Farticus by Mark Jaciejewski

Chub is a short, accidentally bald, middle school outcast with no chance of ever becoming one of the popular kids. With help from his personal band of like-minded misfits (not to mention tactics gleaned from the Colonel, a US military vet with toenail issues), Chub’s determined to bring down his nemesis, class hero and now potential class president, Archer, or the Arch—the very guy who betrayed Chub with the lice-killing potion that left him bald as a billiard ball. If the Arch gets to be president, Chub knows his life is officially over. [chapter book, ages 9 and up]

To enter to win, please fill out the Rafflecopter at the bottom.

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I love to laugh, especially when I read. Some of my best memories as a kid were of losing myself in a giggle fit over a book (usually, one I shouldn’t have been reading at that age.) Back then there simply weren’t a lot of books written directly to middle graders, and of the ones that were, few of them were funny. So I ended up reading a lot of humor meant for grown-ups, which may or may not have had a positive effect on my developing brain.

Today, however publishers have gotten smart. They realize that if you make a kid laugh, that kid will probably keep on reading. Nowadays there are tons of hilarious book written for the Middle Grade set. If you know a middle Grader who thinks reading is a bore, put one of these books in their hands, sit back and watch them crack up. You might just turn them into a reader, or God forbid, a writer.

 

Middle Grade Humor for Boys and Other Reluctant Readers

Pickle by Kim Baker

Pickle is about a prank club at Fountain Point Elementary School which is so secretive they operate a full scale pickle making club as a front for their operations. This book features a wonderful, diverse cast of characters who pull off one hilarious prank after another. I love Kim Baker’s comic touch and the way she creates a full cast of utterly unique characters, dealing with real life challenges, that any middle school reader will completely relate to. [chapter book, for ages 8 and up]

Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Cofer

Magic and Mobsters. Need I say more? Artemis Fowl is the son of an Irish crime lord who tricks a fairy into giving up her book of spells so he can use it for his own criminal enterprises. I love the way Colfer blends action, adventure, fantasy, and humor to make us root for a great Middle Grade anti-hero. I also hear there’s a movie in the works. Bonus! [chapter book series, for ages 8 and up]

I have a post on Eoin Colfer when I met him at the Mega Awesome Event.

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Nevermoor Giveaway

Nevermoor Prize Pack GIVEAWAY!

Disney-Hyperion sent me a copy to check out, and is partnering with me for a giveaway!

I’m giving away a prize pack in celebration of Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend. This book reminds me of The Hunger Games meets The Unwanteds.

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10 Books to Turn Reluctant Readers into Eager Ones & 3 Book Giveaway!

10 Books to Turn Reluctant Readers into Eager Ones & 3 Book Giveaway!

Please welcome my guest author today, Jarrett Lerner. I met him at the six middle grade event in Boston!

He’s the author of EngiNerds and we are doing a 3 book giveaway! To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter at the bottom.

EngiNerds by Jarrett Lerner

The battle between boys and bots is on in this funny, fast-paced novel.

They may be brainiacs, but they’re just like everyone else: they fight with one another, watch too much TV, eat Chinese food, and hate walking their dogs. Well, maybe not just like everyone because Ken’s best friend Dan has been building robots. He then secretly sent one to each of the EngiNerds, never letting them know he’s the mastermind.

But be careful what you wish for: Dan’s robot, Greeeg, may look innocent, but his ravenous consumption of food—comestibles—turns him into a butt-blasting bot. And once the other robots ‘come alive’ it’s up to the motley crew of EngiNerds to not only save the day, but save the planet! [chapter book, ages 8 and up]

10 Books to Turn Reluctant Readers into Eager Ones

1. The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey

Any list like this would be incomplete if it failed to mention Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants (and now also Dog Man) series. They are, quite simply, some of the best books produced in the past couple decades. They are wonderfully approachable, and always manage to deliver the perfect amount of silliness and adventure while also leaving readers with something positive to think over. Pilkey’s books are a sure-fire way of eroding some of your reluctant reader’s reluctance. [chapter book, ages 6 and up]

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Meet 6 Middle Grade Authors & HUGE 6 Book GIVEAWAY!

Meet 6 Middle Grade Authors & HUGE 7 Book GIVEAWAY!

It was fun to meet six KidLit authors and learn more about their newest books at Trident Booksellers and Café on Newbery Street in Back Bay, Boston. Despite having an office in Back Bay, I had never been to this book store before! It’s great with two good sized cafés.

Middle Grade Authors Describe & Read from Their Books

The KidLit middle grade panel had a nice mix of books. They featured mystery, fantasy, science fiction, foodie fiction, and one story co-written by seven different authors: Rachele Alpine, Ronni Arno, Alison Cherry, Stephane Faris, Gail Nall, Jen Malone, and Dee Romito.

Trident Booksellers and Cafe

I video taped each author (and the moderator) as they described and then read from their book (or book jacket).

Middle Grade Authors Describe & Read from Their Books

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Beatrice Zinker prize pack

#BeatriceZinker #UpsideDownThinker GIVEAWAY

Disney-Hyperion sent me a copy to check out, and is partnering with me for a giveaway!

I’m giving away a prize pack in celebration of Shelley Johannes’ debut chapter book, Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker, in collaboration with Disney Hyperion. To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter at the bottom. It’s in stores now!

Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker by Shelley Johannes

Beatrice does her best thinking upside down.

Hanging from trees by her knees, doing handstands . . . for Beatrice Zinker, upside down works every time. She was definitely upside down when she and her best friend, Lenny, agreed to wear matching ninja suits on the first day of third grade. But when Beatrice shows up at school dressed in black, Lenny arrives with a cool new outfit and a cool new friend. Even worse, she seems to have forgotten all about the top-secret operation they planned!

Can Beatrice use her topsy-turvy way of thinking to save the mission, mend their friendship, and flip things sunny-side up? [chapter book, ages 9 and up]

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Summer Reading List for ages 8 and up (part 2 of 2)

Summer Chapter Book Reading List GIVEAWAY (part 2 of 2)

I’ve been “book tasting” or sampling two dozen or so middle grade chapter books to find books for my 12 year old son. I’m also reading for myself, trying to discover that possible Newbery gem in these piles.

From this list, I’m narrowing down my reading pile to:

  • Lemons by Melissa Savage (getting buzz)
  • A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold (for possible autism list I’m working on)
  • Zinnia and the Bees by Danielle Davis (I do like magical realism)
  • Kid Beowulf: The Song of Roland by Alexis E. Fajardo (my son likes graphic novels and I’m also going to add to my Medieval/Middle Ages book list; a period of history that is growing on me)
  • Mabel Opal Pear and the Rules for Spying by Amanda Hosch (I have a spy/superhero chapter book list that I can add this one to)
  • A Dog Like Daisy by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb (I might make a service dog book list)

How about you? What middle grade books are you loving right now?

p.s. I’m giving away 6 of these books. Please fill out the Rafflecopter at the bottom to enter.

p.p.s. Part 1 of this list here.

 

Summer Reading List for ages 8 and up & GIVEAWAY (part 2 of 2)

Race to the Bottom of the Sea by Lindsay Eager

I loved Hour of the Bees so I’m excited to read Lindsay Eager’s newest book that has a breezier feel than the slight melancholic heaviness of Hour of the Bees. 11 year old Fidelia Quail becomes an orphan where her parents are killed in a submarine of her own invention and now it’s up to her to escape a pirate who has kidnapped her, and figure of the mystery of a treasure he’s desperate to find on the bottom of the ocean. This book feels a little like Half Magic meets The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]

Lemons by Melissa Savage

There seems to be a growing buzz for Lemons, Melissa Savage’s debut chapter book. It’s 53 chapters of about 6 pages each. I personally find short chapters appealing because the pacing tends to be fast and thus hold my son’s interest. Nearly 11 years old Lemonade Liberty (Lem for short) is moving to a tiny town to live with her grandfather after her mother dies. It’s here that she makes a new friend who is determined to capture Bigfoot on film. This book reminds me of The True Meaning of Smekday thus far. I’m excited to read further. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]

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Summer Reading List for ages 8 and up & GIVEAWAY

Summer Reading List for ages 8 and up & GIVEAWAY

I have a stack of middle grade chapter books to review so I thought I would do a book tasting to screen them. It’s basically a perusal — check out the cover, the back cover, the flap summary for first impressions — then read the first few chapters, skip around the middle reading here and there, and see if you can guess the ending. If the book grabs me, then I’m pulling it aside to read in depth.

I’m also including my sixth grade 12-year-old son’s book recommendations of the books we’ve read together. He like Rick Riordan and fantasy adventure like Percy Jackson, but also mysteries, nonfiction, and graphic novels. Here are his recommendations:

Summer Reading List for ages 8 and up

Ungifted by Gordon Korman

I loved Schooled by Gordon Korman so when I saw Ungifted at a used bookstore, I snapped it up for my son. Korman knows how to write for middle school kids. This is a funny, realistic story about a boy who evades punishment by being accidentally enrolled in a school for gifted students and the transformation he creates by being the average student that he is. We are almost done with it and will seek out more of his books. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]

The Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibottson

Readers who like the Half Magic series or Roald Dahl will like this British realistic fantasy caper about aunts living on a remote island with magical creatures. My son read this for a class assignment and we both really liked it. It’s perfect for readers who think Harry Potter might be scary because it has that same fantasy magical element but is a more gentle story. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]

FunJungle novels series by Stuart Gibbs

My son picked the first two books from a used bookstore and he’s enjoyed it so much we’ve read all the books written so far, and are waiting impatiently for more. Teddy is a sixth grade boy who lives at zoo with his world renowned primatologist mother, and wildlife photographer father. FunJungle is a new state-of-the-art zoo built by a billionaire for his seventh grade daughter, Summer. Someone is trying to sabotage the zoo, and Teddy’s detective skills are called into play. Working with Summer, Teddy has to find culprit or risk juvenile hall since often he’s the main suspect. This series also has an endangered animal environmental message. [chapter book series, ages 8 and up]

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Homelessness in Children's Books

Homelessness in Children’s Books

In creating this list, I noticed that most of these homelessness stories have parents who work part-time jobs, often more than one. Despite shelter uncertainty, they are going about their lives, sending their children to school, and even going to college themselves. It’s usually a series of setbacks or a tragedy like the death of a breadwinner than sends them spiraling downward. This is not surprising given that most Americans are one paycheck away from the streets.

On a single night in January 2015, 564,708 people were experiencing homelessness — meaning they were sleeping outside or in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program. National Alliance to End Homelessness

Part of this 564,708 homeless number includes women and children. It’s a heart breaking statistic. Imagine families with children trying to go about their everyday life without a place to sleep. It’s becoming a more common sight in cities like Boston where I live.

With the spike in homelessness, has come the homeless spikes. Yes, it’s as horrible as it sounds. MacDonald‘s is one such company that puts anti-homeless spikes designed to keep the homeless away.

Some artists decided to fight back against the anti-homeless spikes, starting a movement they call “Space, Not Spikes.”

not spikes

“Space, Not Spikes” reclaimed the spiked area by covering it with bedding, pillows, and a bookshelf stocked with reading material. Upworthy

Hostile design doesn’t solve the issue of homelessness. It just tries to remove the homeless from the line of sight of those who have a place to live. And yet, there are humane solutions to homelessness like these tiny homes the size of garden sheds.

tiny homes for the homeless

My oldest, Grasshopper and Sensei, is headed for art college. She thinks about social issues from a design perspective. I hope that one day she will work on the issue of homelessness.

Maybe this book list will inspire kids to tackle this problem with solutions that start and end with compassion, not spikes? Here’s hoping!

How about you? What books would you add to this list? Thanks for your help!

 

Homelessness in Children’s Books

Homelessness in Picture Books

Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan

Nationally, about one out of every eight people is poor. Many of them are children. The patrons of the soup kitchen include the unemployed, the needy, and the homeless. No one is excluded.

A young boy is nervous to see the Can Man in his neighborhood, but his Uncle Willie who works at the soup kitchen knows him well. The boy notices a woman sleeping on a park bench and decides he wants to learn more about his uncle’s soup kitchen. On his day off from school, he accompanies his uncle to work. It’s little things that he learns: children who sit in high chairs eat here; not everyone is homeless; somehow there is always enough food for everyone. [picture book, ages 6 and up]

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