Hello, friends! I am scrabbling like a madwoman to get all my stuff together for the AWG conference coming up this weekend, but, shock of all shocks, I’m actually being pretty productive. I am a really useful engine! Who knew?
Knowing that I would be super busy, Past Jill kindly scheduled a nice light post for this week- I’ll be highlighting my favorite MG books that’ve read over the last year. Seriously, people who don’t read children’s literature are missing out. Even if we pretend YA is adult reading, there is so much to love in kid lit! Beautiful picture books, hilarious early readers, sweet story collections- you name it.
Some of the middle grade books I’ve read were read at the school or with my own children, but a lot of them were read just for me. Here are a few of my favorites from recent history.
The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo (talking-animal fantasy)- I read this book aloud with my children (complete with accents, voices, and shouting) and all of us loved it. It wasn’t perfect, but darned near close. My boys and I, we’re yearners, we’re idealists, and so we found a lot of common grounds with our big-eared hero. The Tale of Despereaux is sweet and sad and poetic, and reminded me a bit of another of my all-time favorites, The Little Prince.
The Zoo at the Edge of the World by Eric Kahn Gale (fantasy adventure)- My son got this for a birthday present and we read it as a family, but he kept trying to read ahead and I had to hide the book from him. In this book, there is a boy with a speech impediment who doesn’t let that keep him down- he saves his father’s life, talks to jaguars and pythons, and uncovers a terrible plot! A quick-reading book that we all loved.
Doll Bones by Holly Black (supernatural horror)- This book is delightfully creepy. I enjoyed it so much I went out and bought myself a copy. It has a wonderful atmosphere, a terrifying china doll (am I the old one whose grandma collected these things and they lined the wall of the guest room staring down at you in the dark?), and three kids who are determined to get to the bottom of all this eeriness.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (fantasy)- It was a swamp monster! And a witch! And killer paper cranes! There was so much to love about this book. A great fantasy read about family lost and found, learning about who (and what) you are, and the powerful changes that a good person in a bad situation can make.
Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson (fantasy adventure)- Full disclosure, I am a Peter Pan fan; a few bits are a little cringy, but that’s hard to avoid with books written over a hundred years ago. This book came at the recommendation of a missionary we met a few years ago and my kids and I were hooked. We read it pretty quickly and then my oldest gobbled up the whole series and really had to dig deep to keep it together when the librarian told him there weren’t any more for him to check out. Anyway, this is basically an origin story for the unaging little imp we all know and love. I wasn’t crazy about all of it, (although my kids certainly were) but again, when you’re dealing with a century old classic, that’s to be expected.
We’re currently working our way through Carol Hughes’ Jack Black and the Ship of Thieves, although I’m having a harder time getting into it, and I just know there are many more delightful Middle Grade books out there, waiting to be read. What are some of your favorites? Any recommendations for a weird middle-aged woman and her three young boys? Thank you kindly!