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.

Posted in So Many Good Books, YA Novels

The Enigma Game

If you like YA books set in World War II and haven’t read the award winning author Elizabeth Wein, you’re missing out. I just finished the wonderful The Enigma Game (‎Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2020). It was fascinating and I learned some new facts too.

Fifteen-year-old British Jamaican Louisa Adair wants to do something to fight the Nazis. Both her parents were killed in the War. But it’s hard simply finding a job. She finally gets one in Scotland, but how can taking care of an elderly German woman accomplish anything for the war efforts?

We also meet Ellen McEwen, a volunteer driver with the Royal Air Force, and Jamie Beaufort-Stuart, a flight leader for the 648 Squadron, and read about their struggles. The three get involved together because of an Enigma machine.

I love the elements of music in this book. And the fact that we meet some characters who often aren’t mentioned positively in books from the time period.

If you’ve read Code Name Verity, you’ve met Jamie before.

Read about the author here and check out her other books here.

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

Two Books – Same Theme

As a kid I was horrified to learn about Nazi Germany and the holocaust. How could people think like that?! My naive self thought antisemitism would disappear. And, of course, so would Nazis. Unfortunately not. Here are two books to help middle grade and young adult readers with these topics. Both are told in multiple points of view.

Linked (Scholastic Press, 2021) by Gordon Korman deals with what happens when a student paints a swastika on the school walls. Meet Michael, Lincoln, and Dana all struggling with the aftermath in their quiet town. Who did it and why? (mg novel)

The Assignment (Ember, 2020) by Liza Wiemer starts out with the good intentions of a teacher wanting his students to understand how horrific the genocide of the Jews was, but his approach is wrong and two students–best friends Logan and Cade–take on the battle to get the assignment canceled. (YA novel)

Both stories have surprising twists and are thought provoking.

Gordon Korman is a many-times-published author. On his website this time, I learned his first book was published when he was fourteen!

The Assignment is Liza Wiermer’s second novel and has won numerous honors. Check it out here. Read about Lisa here.

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

A Wish in the Dark

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

A Wish in the Dark (Candlewick Press, 2020) by Christina Soontornvat is my favorite read so far this year!

Pong was born in Nomwan Prison. He and his best friend and Somkit stare at the lights of Chattana–the city that one man, the Governor, brought light to after the great fire. If only they could escape there.

Nok is the daughter of the prison warder. She and her family are at Nomwan because the Governor is coming to visit. To her shock the young Pong approaches the Governor.

Pong thinks that such a good man as the Governor will see how unfair it is for children born to prisoners to be imprisoned. But when the Governor doesn’t agree, all that’s left to Pong is to escape, which he does.

Nok’s father is blamed for Pong’s escape and she wants to capture him to restore her family’s name. But secrets she discovers in her quest make her question everything she’s ever known.

Who will win in this unfair world?

The story has many surprising twists and turns. This Thai-inspired fantasy is a 2021 Newbery Honor book–I can’t believe I didn’t read it sooner. Plus, it has won other awards and been put on many lists. See those here.

Christina has written a number of award winning books in a variety of categories–read more about her here and see all her books here.