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.
Often celebrity books irritate me. Many are published because of WHO the author is–not the quality of the writing. Some break basic rules that would normally get a picture book rejected. But celebrity names sell, so editors often don’t get much editorial control. That said, I recently enjoyed a book published by a celebrity. Probably helps she’s a writer. *smiles*
Escape Goat (Harper, 2020) by Ann Patchett and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser is definitely more than a book with a punny title.
A little goat decide to escape to the see the great world. He samples a cabbage from the garden, and then starts getting blamed for all kinds of mishaps on the farm. Mr. Farmer raises the fence on the goat pen. Goat still escapes and is blamed again. Mr. Farmer raises the fence more so goat can’t jump over. But he can scoot under. Again, he’s blamed. Until the farmer’s daughter speaks up.
At first, I was taken aback by all the lying in this book, but then I realized how it could create such great discussions between adults and children reading the book. Probably most of us have at one point tried to blame our actions on someone else–this story takes it to the ridiculous. That makes it easy to talk about the subject.
Ann Patchett is a well-published author of many adult books. This is her second children’s book. Read more about her here.
Robin Glasser may be a familiar name as she illustrated the Fancy Nancy books. Before she was an illustrator she was a ballet dancer and you can see influence from dance in some of the illustrations in this story. Read more about her here.
Perfect Picture Book Friday
I love a story that turns a concept upside down. And that’s what People Are Wild (Alfred A. Knopf, 2022) by Margaux Meganck does. Instead of the story being told from a child looking at animals, the animals are looking at people.
Words and art are a great match. It’s hard to choose a favorite spread because I loved them so much. I also like the variety of animals and how there is more information about them after the story ends. It’s nice to see diversity in the human characters too.
This is Margaux’s first picture book she has illustrated and written. Previously, she illustrated Kathy Wolff’s All We Need.
Read more about the author/illustrator here.
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.)
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.