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.)

Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books

A Good Kind of Trouble

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

When I started reading A Good Kind of Trouble (Balzer + Bray, 2019) by Lisa Moore Ramée, I thought, here we go again with another friends-changing-when-they-enter-Junior-High story. But it’s so much more than that. It’s about your own identity and how you don’t have to fit in a box. It’s about getting rid of assumptions. And standing up for what you believe in. And, yes, changing friendships.

Twelve-year-old Shayla wants to avoid trouble, but she discovers that sometimes you have to be trouble. Whether it’s in a relationship with friends or standing up to others, Shayla learns how to do the right thing.

I love the first line: “I’m allergic to trouble.” There’s strong seventh grade voice and humor in this story. This book is a Walter Dean Meyers Honor book, and can also help explain why Black Lives Matter.

Lisa is also the author of Something to Say (2020) and has a middle grade fantasy called Mapmaker coming in 2022. Read more about her here.

Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books

Starfish

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

This book is for the big girls. And for those who need to understand how hurtful words can be. And for those needing more love.

Starfish (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2021) by Lisa Fipps is so well written.

This novel-in-verse is such a heart-wrenching believable story of Ellie who is often called Splash or Whale. It felt so true I found myself getting angry at Ellie’s mother. Why doesn’t she stop Ellie’s siblings from teasing her? Why doesn’t she see her daughter’s strengths? But with help Ellie learns how to speak up not only to bullies at school but to her own mother.

And I’m not alone in thinking this book is great. Go here to see all the Best Book lists it’s being put on.

This is the author’s debut novel. Can’t wait to see what else she writes. Read about Lisa here. (I enjoyed her sense of humor!)

Posted in PB, So Many Good Books

Floaty

Perfect Picture Book Friday

Floaty (Henry Holt and Co., 2018) by John Himmelman is a fun book. I missed it when it came out and am glad a friend brought it to my attention. I think kids and adults will appreciate the humor in words and illustrations.

Mr. Raisin only likes sewing. One day a basket is left at his door and inside is a troublesome puppy who floats. The old man can’t quite just let him go and eventually Mr. Raisin becomes fond of the dog he names, Floaty. But what is he to do when one day the leash breaks and Floaty floats away?

Author/Illustrator John Himmelman has done over 80 books! He’s on Facebook where it looks like he posts book news regularly and has his own website. Many of his books are nature related.

Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books

Other Words for Home

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

Other Words For Home (Balzer + Bray, 2019) by Jasmine Warga is a Newbery Honor book and a New York Times bestseller. It’s written in verse and is a story of bravery. I wish everyone could read it to help their understanding of refugees and immigrants.

Jude and her mother have to leave Syria because of the violence and come to America to live with Uncle Mazin in Cincinnati. It’s so hard to leave behind Baba and her older brother. She quickly learns that her English isn’t good as she thought. As her brother told her, she must “be brave.” At first she dreads her ESL class until she learns the others there understand how difficult it is to find the right words. But her cousin doesn’t want to associate with her at school. Finding a few friends helps Jude have the courage to follow her dreams and she tries out for the school play. Will being in the spotlight make her life better or worse? And what about the dangers her brother is in?

Jasmine has written another middle grade novel called The Shape of Thunder and has published three young adult novels. Read more about her here.