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

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 Award Winners, MG Novels, So Many Good Books, YA Novels

Blessing’s Bead

BlessingsbeadIsn’t this a beautiful cover?
Blessing’s Bead (Melanie Kroupa Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009) by Debby Dahl Edwardson is an interesting mix of historical and contemporary. I’ll be honest I felt the historical section was a bit slow at first–maybe because there were so many characters–but once I got going it was good. The contemporary section pulled me in right away. I loved how the cultural information was done. It was great how the two stories meet up.
Here’s a brief look at each section:
It’s 1917 and Nutaaq watches her sister Aaluk and the young Siberian wearing the string of cobalt beads. Nutaaq does well in a race and gets one bead. Her sister goes off to marry the Siberian, then illness strikes the village and very few are left.
70 years later, Blessing and her little brother are sent away from their mother to live with their grandmother. Blessing feels like an outsider with the Inupiaq, but then begins to learn about her family’s history. She finds a blue bead, which she treasures without quite knowing why.
Debby writes with authenticity about her adopted culture in Barrow, Alaska. Read more here and the kudos for Blessing’s Bead. Debby’s site has many extras, so you may want to spend some time there. I did and now I’m putting her other novel and her picture book on my TBR pile!

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

Ashes

Something a bit different…
Ashes.CVRIn some ways there are so many books written about Nazi Germany and the holocaust that one might think, how can there be another? But Kathryn Lasky has done it well with Ashes (Viking, 2010). The book gives a view into what was happening before much of the world was aware of the looming danger.
From the viewpoint of 13-year-old Gaby, we see the rise of Hitler Germany’s Chancellor in 1932. Gaby witnesses things she worries about – some she shares with her parents, some not. She reads material that is later banned. Her family is friends with Einstein, which gets them called “white Jews.” Later in the story some tough decisions are made in this award winning book.
I like reading the Q&A about the book on Kathryn’s site and what she herself says about the book.

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

Countdown

countdowncoverwtext.jpgCountdown (Scholastic, 2010) by Deborah Wiles is a story about fearful stuff.
It’s 1962 and 11-year-old Franny has so much to worry about: her great uncle doing crazy stuff and thinking he’s in one of the great wars, her little brother Drew who is perfect, her older sister Jo Ellen who disappears, her best friend Margie who is her friend no longer due to handsome Gale moving back to the neighborhood and wanting to hang out with Franny, Communists, and the atomic bomb. Oh, yeah, throw in the Cuban missile crisis, too. Yikes–life’s definitely not easy at her house.
This historical novel is very well written. Just today I read this quote from Deborah: “Story is everything. It’s all around us, and it’s every breath we take, every thought we think, every word we utter, every experience we have. It’s both inner and outer. There is always an outer story-what’s happening here?-and an inner story: how do I feel about that? That exchange sets up a cause-and-effect that becomes story.” That’s definitely what she’s done in Countdown!
And added bonus in this story is the graphic novel feel with the inserts from ads, news reports, etc. from the time period.
Going to Deborah’s site, I discovered Countdown is book one of a sixties trilogy! I’ll definitely be reading the others.