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

The Red Pencil

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

The Red Pencil (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2015) by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Shane W. Evans is a book I missed reading, but am glad to have caught up with. Told in verse and with line drawings, it’s heartbreaking, yet hopeful.

In Darfur, Sudan, twelve-year-old Amira, wants the impossible–to go to school and learn to read and write. But her mother says her life will be farming and marriage so there is no need. After the Janjaweed attack her village, the family makes their way to a refugee camp. There a gift of a red pencil gives Amira hope.

Check out the awards and more info on the book here.

Read about Andrea and her other books here and Shane and his books here.

Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books


(HarperCollins, 2016) by Kwame Alexander is a novel in verse that tells the story of eighth grader Nick Hall.
Nick is a soccer star, victim of a dad who makes him read a book called Weird and Wonderful Words–written by Dad, daydreamer, and class comedian. He also has a crush on a certain girl, and his friend Coby and he have a pact about having girlfriends by ninth grade. Life is looking good, but some unpleasant surprises are headed Nick’s way.
I loved how Nick complains about the words his dad makes him learn, yet he uses them in conversation. He’s a nice mix of realistic attributes and emotion and humor. I also liked that Nick gets encouragement from a teacher during his struggles.
The author creates sympathy for Nick in this easy to read book. And I bet many kids are enjoying poetry because of Kwame Alexander’s many books. Read all about this impressive author on his website.

Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books

The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
LastFifthGradeThe Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary (Wendy Lamb Books, 2016) by Laura Shovan is a different take on a novel in verse. In this book 18 kids are writing poems for a time capsule. Their school is scheduled to be torn down at the end of the year, and many of these fifth graders are not happy about that. The book covers the whole school year–what they try to save the school, friendships, and more.
I enjoyed the different way the kids approached their poems and learning about each kid’s personality from “their” writings. 18 kids is a lot to juggle, but soon I was recognizing who was who by what they said and their poetry style. I’m wondering if the variety of poems might inspire some readers to write their own poetry.
On the author’s blog Laura shares Poetry Friday entries. She tells the style of poem and what was behind writing it. Fun!

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

The Crossover

2p_THE CROSSOVER jacket.inddI’m late to the party to celebrate the 2015 Newbery medal book, The Crossover (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014) by Kwame Alexander. But actually it’s never too late to read a good book.
If you haven’t read this believable novel in verse, I strongly recommend it. It’d be especially great for those reluctant readers as it is a very quick read and so accessible. Kids into sports will like it. It’s fun to read for anyone!
That doesn’t mean it’s a piece of fluff by any means. Instead we experience the highs and lows with thirteen-year-old Josh and his twin Jordan (JB). His brother is thinking more about GIRLS than BASKETBALL. Will the brothers even be friends after this year?
booked.jpgKwame is the author of 21 books. His most recent novel Booked came out in April and looks great.
Read more about the author/poet on his website.

Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books

Hate That Cat

HATE THAT CATI’ve long wondered if there were any novels written in verse that didn’t have girl main characters. Now, I know there’s at least one. I stumbled across Hate That Cat (Joanna Cotler Books, 2008) by master writer Sharon Creech. In it I met Jack, and traveled through his school year with him. He made me laugh out loud a number of times as he himself is learning about poetry and poets. (Regarding the latter, he always wants to know if they are alive.) Jack also tugged on my heart strings. Isn’t he lucky to have Ms Stretchberry as his teacher? Again.
LOVE THAT DOGNow I’ve found out that Hate that Cat is a sequel to Love that Dog. Even though the second book revealed what happened to the dog, I still have to go get the story and read it. I think I might also need to share these books with my grandsons now that they are old enough.
Sharon shares the inspiration for these stories and tidbits about them on her site. Click on novels, then choose which one you want to read about.