Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
Paperboy (Delacorte Press, 2013) by Vince Vawter is a compelling read. Look at the first three lines: “I’m typing about the stabbing for a good reason. I can’t talk.
This historical novel, set in 1959, is about an 11-year-old boy whose communication with others is difficult due to his stuttering problem, and so much more. Victor agrees to take on his friend’s paper route for the month of July. The throwing part will be fun. Talking to customers to collect, not so much. And he has no idea that giving his yellow-handle knife to the junkman to be sharpened is going to cause so much trouble.
This book was a 2014 Newbery Honor book. I’m so glad I didn’t miss reading it. There’s a sequel called Copyboy when Victor is older.
Read about the author here. And take a look at a blog post about other languages the book was published in here.
And another historical for you: Chasing Secrets (Wendy Lamb Books, 2015) by Gennifer Choldenko, who never disappoints. I still remember crying over Notes from a Liar and Her Dog.
It’s 1900 in San Francisco and thirteen-year-old Lizzie Kennedy would rather be with her physician father than going to Miss Barstow’s finishing school. And even though Aunt Hortense doesn’t think it is appropriate she is interested in science, Lizzie goes whenever she can. But dead rats are appearing everywhere. Could the plague have arrived?
Besides secrets, the story involves mysteries, sneaking around, a new friend, danger, and more. Lizzie even learns a thing or two.
Check out Gennifer’s stupid author photos here or see her other books here. You’ll be glad you did.
I love learning about history via historical fiction–it just brings it alive. Is It Night or Day? (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2010) by Fern Schumer Chapman is a recent discover for me. The book is inspired by the author’s mother’s experiences, who was one of twelve hundred children rescued from the Holocaust by Americans through the One Thousand Children project.
It’s 1938 and twelve-year-old Edith has to travel alone from Germany to America as the anti-Semitism is getting worse. She’ll be staying with family she’s never met in Chicago. Is that scary or what?
See if the opening lines of this book don’t just grab you: “The first long train trip I ever took in Germany was my last. Now I see that it was a funeral procession. The mourners traveling with me were my father, my mother, and Mina, a Christian girl who lived with my family and was as dear to me as my big sister, Betty. We were burying my childhood.”
The author creates such sympathy in the reader’s heart for Edith. Wow! It’s an unforgettable story and definitely a good read.
Read about Fern Schumer Chapman’s other books here.
I read Lucky Broken Girl (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2017) by Ruth Behar before the announcement that Ruth won the well deserved 2018 Pura Belpré Author Award. This historical novel is based on the author’s own experience of being in a body cast for almost a year. One of the things this story set in the 60’s did for me was make me grateful for medical advancements.
Fifth grader Ruthie Mizrahi and her family have emigrated from Cuba. Hear her voice in the opening two lines: “When we lived in Cuba, I was smart. But when we got to Queens, in New York City, in the United States of America, I became dumb, just because I couldn’t speak English.”
However, Ruthie is a fighter and an encourager. She makes friends with another student who is from India who is also “not dumb.” She gets the teacher to agree to them both being promoted to the smart class. She’s also the hopscotch queen in her neighborhood and has even talked her father into a pair of go go boots.
But then the family is in a terrible car accident and Ruthie is put in a body cast. She is pretty discouraged–she’s alone so much and afraid. Surprisingly, in time her life improves. The question remains though: will she ever walk again?
Amazingly enough this is Ruth Behar’s debut novel. Ruth is also a cultural anthropologist. Read more about her here. And read about the other honors and lists, etc. for this book here.
Cloud and Wallfish (Candlewick Press, 2016) by Anne Nesbet has an unusual title and is an unusual story. It’s a historical set in 1989, before and after the Berlin Wall comes down, but it’s way more than that.
Noah’s parents came together to pick him up from fifth grade. And as the text says, “…in Noah’s family, picking up kids at school was a one-parent activity.” Things get weirder from there. Much weirder. The family is moving to Germany–but “not the usual Germany.” They say it’s for an urgent expedition. But what expedition has you changing your name and birthday? And when they get to East Berlin Noah can’t go to school because of his speech defect–he stutters. But he ends up making a friend anyway. And, well, let’s just say things get riskier from then on.
I love this book. I like Noah’s personality and the Secret Files. I like how it ends. It was a hard-to-put-down read. Cloud and Wallfish was awarded the California Book Award gold medal in the Juvenile category in June. You can read about that here. See the other awards here.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may recognize Anne’s name as I’ve mentioned her previous books here too. Here’s her website if you’d like more info about Anne or her books.