Other Words For Home (Balzer + Bray, 2019) by Jasmine Warga is a Newbery Honor book and a New York Times bestseller. It’s written in verse and is a story of bravery. I wish everyone could read it to help their understanding of refugees and immigrants.
Jude and her mother have to leave Syria because of the violence and come to America to live with Uncle Mazin in Cincinnati. It’s so hard to leave behind Baba and her older brother. She quickly learns that her English isn’t good as she thought. As her brother told her, she must “be brave.” At first she dreads her ESL class until she learns the others there understand how difficult it is to find the right words. But her cousin doesn’t want to associate with her at school. Finding a few friends helps Jude have the courage to follow her dreams and she tries out for the school play. Will being in the spotlight make her life better or worse? And what about the dangers her brother is in?
Jasmine has written another middle grade novel called The Shape of Thunder and has published three young adult novels. Read more about her here.
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday Three Times Lucky (Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin, 2012) by Sheila Turnage is a murder mystery that won a Newbery Honor. I love how it opens: “Trouble cruised into Tupelo Landing at exactly seven minutes past noon on Wednesday, the third of June, flashing a gold badge and driving a Chevy Impala the color of dirt.” 11-year-old Mo and her best friend Dale don’t know it, but they’re going to get mixed up good in the trouble that has come to town.
A sequel came out this year, The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, which features Mo and Dale working to solve another mystery in their unusual small town. I haven’t read it yet, but am looking forward to it!
On her website, author Sheila Turnage has a page for Questions Kids Ask Me AKA Report Homework–it’s fun. Plus on her site you can read about her other books.
The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg (Sky Blue Press, 2009) by Rodman Philbrick is not only very fun, but it’s very good. And that’s not just my opinion since it was a 2010 Newbery Honor book! I love how the cover presents a good picture of the flavor of this book.
Here’s a brief introduction to the story:
12-year-old Homer and his brother Harold have been entrusted to the care of their mother’s late sister’s husband. Squint, according to Homer, is the meanest man in Maine, and since he makes them sleep in the barn and starves them it must be true. When Squint sells 17-year-old Harold to the Union Army for $250, Homer escapes and goes to save him. Read about his adventures and misadventures and the people he meets along the way.
The author also wrote Freak, the Mighty, which was made into a movie called The Mighty. Read about that and other books on his website. If you’re a young person wanting to write, read what he has to say here.
Turtle in Paradise (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2010) by Jennifer L. Holm just won a Golden Kite (an SCBWI award from her peers) in fiction for her historical middle grade novel and is one of the Newbery Honor books this year. Oh, how I love it when worthy books win awards!
Inspired by her grandmother’s stories, Jennifer writes a humorous book with adventure, buried treasure, strange relatives, crooks, and one smart girl.
It’s 1935, and when Turtle’s mom gets a job as a housekeeper for a lady who doesn’t like kids, 11-year-old Turtle is sent to live with her aunt. Not only does this New Jersey girl have to deal with a new place (Key West, Florida), but her 3 boy cousins as well. The 2 older ones are part of the Diaper Gang–they get paid for babysitting and their secret diaper rash cure. The littlest one keeps running around without his pants. And that’s just a small taste introduction to this story.
Listen to the first line and hear Turtle speak for herself: “Everyone things children are as sweet as Necco Wafers, but I’ve lived long enough to know the truth: kids are rotten.”
Jennifer L. Holm previously won a Newbery Honor for My Only May Amelia, which after ten years now has a sequel, The Trouble with May Amelia. Woo Hoo! Read more here.
In The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (Henry Holt and Company, 2009) 11-yea- old Callie Vee is the middle child between 3 older brothers and 3 younger brothers. She’s also caught in the middle of wanting to learn about nature with her grandfather and her mother’s desire for her to learn womanly pursuits. This historical novel by Jacqueline Kelly is funny, interesting, touching. I love the relationship between Callie and her grandfather, her struggles in the kitchen, the music she likes to play, her conversations with Viola their cook, her misunderstandings of what the future might be, the excitement and interests as new things like the phone and automobiles begin to affect their lives.
I believe the Newbery honor award for this book was well deserved.
And it’s Jacqueline’s first book! Read about Jackie at her publisher’s site or on her own website. There’s also a fan page on Facebook.