Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books

When Sea Becomes Sky

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

When Sea Becomes Sky (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2023) by Gillian McDunn is super good. I don’t think I’ve fallen in love with a middle grade book so much as this one. And been so surprised.

It’s summer and siblings Bex and Davey are spending time in the salt marsh and discover an underwater hand. It’s part of a statue, but development may destroy not only their favorite place, but this amazing piece of artwork, so the two have to do something.

The book is a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection, a Kids Indie Next List Pick (March/April 2023), an Amazon Best Books March 2023 and Editors’ Pick, plus a Southern Book Prize Finalist.

Learn about Gillian here and check out her five other books here.

Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books, YA Novels

Orbiting Jupiter

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

Need a good middle grade read? Easy. Read a book by Gary D. Schmidt (two-time Newbery Honor winner). Orbiting Jupiter (Clarion Books, 2015) was no exception. It’s labeled young adult, but the main character is in sixth grade. I think if it was published now, it probably would be labeled middle grade, although there are definitely tough topics.

Sixth-grader Jack and his family are taking in an eight-grader. They’ve been warned, Joseph tried to kill his teacher, and he has a 3-month old daughter he’s never met. But when Joseph comes, Rosie, the cow loves him. According to Jack, “You can tell all you need to know about someone from the way cows are around him.” Does that mean having Joseph in their lives is easy? No. But you’ll have to read it to see what happens.

This is such a heartfelt heart-breaking book–a mixtures of sadness and joy.

Read about Gary and his books here.

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

Coyote Queen

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

Coyote Queen (Greenwillow Books, 2023) by Jessica Vitalis is a fascinating story of one girl’s experience with poverty, domestic violence, and magic.

Twelve-year-old Fud, Felicity Ulyssa Dahlers, and her mom have always been on their own. Until Larry. Who makes the rules. And has an uneven temper and is super easy to anger. When the new neighbor girl tells her about a beauty pageant where the prize money is enough to get them away from Larry, Fud knows she has to apply and win.

Read the compelling first line: “Before the coyote stuff happened, I would have told you that magic didn’t exist.”

The story is set in Wyoming where Fud sees, and experiences, coyotes in a very unique way. The book just came out, but already it is a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection.

Inspired by some experiences when Jessica was a child, this is her third book. Read about her other books here. And check out her fun facts on Jessica’s about page here.

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

out of my heart

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

out of my heart by Sharon M. Draper (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2021) is an amazing book that I wish EVERYONE would read! Such a satisfying story about persistence and friendship. Can you tell I loved it?

Twelve-year-old Melody can’t walk, talk, or feed herself, but she’s smart and she wants to go to camp. She researches and finds a camp for kids with special needs and convinces her parents to let her go. It’s scary–she’s not been away from her parents for so long–and they are going to have her swim and go horseback riding. Can she do all that?!

It’s a sequel to out of my mind, but it’s been so long since I read that book, I didn’t remember much, so this book definitely stands alone. Readers kept asking to know what else happened to Melody in the first book, that Sharon wrote a sequel. Both book promote so much understanding about those who are differently abled. out of my heart was a CCBC Choice (Cooperative Children’s Book Council).

Sharon is an award winning author and teacher. Read about her here. Check out her books here.

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

Where the Watermelons Grow

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

Where the Watermelons Grow (Harper, 2018) by Cindy Baldwin is such a heartbreaking story, yet filled with hope.

Twelve-year-old Della Kelly’s mama is doing strange things again. Is the sickness that got her hospitalized four years ago back? Della decides she’s going to do everything she can to help her mama get better. But will it be enough?

This was author Cindy Baldwin’s debut–an amazing debut. Since then she’s published three other books. I recommended her Beginner’s Welcome here. See all of her books here and read about Cindy here. You can also read a couple of her short stories here.

I love what Cindy says about the book: “With Where the Watermelons Grow, the story idea arose out of two inspirations: The first was when I was singing the song ‘Down By the Bay‘ to my baby and started wondering what could be the story behind the song. The second was my desire to write a story about a disability that does not end with a magical cure. Although I don’t have schizophrenia, I’m a disabled parent myself, and many of the experiences of the Kelly family were inspired by things my own family went through.”

This novel was a Washington Post KidsPost Summer Book Club Selection, an Indies Introduce and Indie Next title, a Bank Street Best Book of 2019, an AudioFile Earphones Award Winner, and an Oregon Spirit Book Award Honor book.