Posted in Award Winners, MG Novels, So Many Good Books

The Last Cuentista

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

The Last Cuentista (Levine Querido, 2021) by Donna Barba Higuera is a scary and compelling story of survival in the future and the power of storytelling.

Twelve-year-old Petra Peña and her family are leaving earth before it is destroyed. But first she has to say good-bye to her abuelita (grandmother), who tells her cuentos (tall tales), and isn’t going on the trip to a new planet. Petra expects to sleep in a stasis pod for 380 years, but something has gone wrong. She’s not sleeping. And then when Petra does awake, it’s to a nightmare of changed people, The Collective, who have renamed her Zeta-1 and expect that she’ll serve them, or be purged.

This book won the 2022 Newbery award and the 2022 Pura Belpré Medal. I think it’s great that this sci-fi story has so much recognition.

Read about Donna here and check out her other books here.

Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books

The Nerviest Girl in the World

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

If you like historical fiction and humor, you’ll love The Nerviest Girl in the World (Alfred A. Knopf, 2020) by Melissa Wiley.

When Pearl’s three big brothers get hired to be “real cowboys” in Mr. Corrigan’s moving picture reels, she is fascinated. After hanging on to a runaway horse herself, Pearl is hired, too. But if her mother finds out, her dangerous career as a stunt girl will be over.

I love Pearl’s conversations with the ostriches–yes, they raise those too on their cattle and sheep ranch. I love Pearl’s conflicts with her nemesis. And I love her bravery. It’s great getting a look at what people thought about this new form of entertainment, too.

This book is a Junior Library Guild selection and Brave Writer Arrow book.

Melissa Wiley is also the author of a number of easy readers and the Martha and Charlotte books about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s great-grandmother and grandmother. Read about Melissa here and see her books here.

Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books

The Elephant’s Girl

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

Celesta Rimington‘s novel, The Elephant’s Girl (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2020), is such an amazing book. I love the first line: “The wind and I have a complicated relationship.” But it’s not only the wind that talks to Lex.

Twelve-year-old Lexington literally lives at the zoo. She was brought there by a tornado; sheltered by an elephant, Nyah; found by a ghost, and taken in and named by the zoo’s train engineer, Roger Marsh. She doesn’t know her actual birthday, who her parents were, or where she came from. And now after seven years, Lex is finally old enough to help with the elephant training sessions. What she doesn’t expect is that Nyah will communicate with her through images. How is she supposed to figure out what they mean?

Celesta has another novel out called Tips for Magicians. I’ll have to check it out. If you want to know more about the author, go to her website where you can read some fun facts.

Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books

Because of the Rabbit

How can you resist that cover? Because of the Rabbit (Scholastic Press, 2019) by Cynthia Lord is a fun and helpful book. Everyone at one point struggles with feeling different and will be encouraged by this story.

Emma, who has previously been homeschooled, is now going to public school in fifth grade. Will she fit in? Will she make friends? Getting paired on an assignment with a kid who definitely does not fit in is not her plan. But rabbits are supposed to be lucky, right?

I love the rabbit facts at the beginning of each chapter. And it’s great that Emma’s father is a game warden.

Cynthia is the 2007 Newbery winning author of Rules. See the rest of her books here. Read more about her here–don’t miss the part about giving herself nightmares! And you can see her rabbits and other pets.

Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books

Mighty Inside

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

I loved Mighty Inside (Levine Querido, 2021) by Sundee T. Frazier. With discussions on segregation, relocation camps, Korean War, Jewish culture, and more, this book gives a great picture of life in the mid-50s is a very realistic way. It shows how determination, music, and friendship can change a kid’s life. If you like underdog stories, you won’t want to miss this book.

I also love the author’s writing itself. Here are a few favorite phrases: “the ball had been a side dish to a dinner-sized dose of humiliation” and “his tongue was so tenderized it was practically filet mignon.” These touches of humor help us through difficult topics.

Melvin Robinson is getting ready to go to high school–that can be scary for anyone. But with his stutter he just knows he’s going to be “dead meat.” His life is even more complicated by being black in a mostly white school in Spokane, WA. When his brother comes to his defense against some bullies, it’s not the white kids who have to clean up the resulting mess but the “Negroes.” For Melvin learning to communicate becomes more and more important–there’s the girl he likes, the bully he needs to stand up to, the terrible death of Emmett Till, and a chance to talk through music. Can Melvin show he deserves respect?

Anyone who has ever had difficulty speaking up will especially enjoy this historical novel. As my book recommendation did last month, it obviously deals with racism. So sad we are still seeing people experiencing this in real life. The book is inspired by Sundee’s grandparents’ experiences in the 1950s in Spokane. Read more about the award-winning author on her website here. Check out her other books here.

Bonus–this is a book with a 13-year-old protagonist. (I love seeing more with this age. For a while, it felt like there was hardly any books for the 13 and 14 age ranges.)