As you’re prepping your new year’s resolutions, how about this one: read more Middle Grade fiction. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite reads this year. Some were published in 2016, some we see as classics we could read over and over. So hop on over to your local bookstore and stock up for your 2017 reading!
Suzanne says: I loved Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate the most. It’s hard to single out one thing that I loved. The writing is fabulous, of course. Simplicity is deceptive, because it is hard to express so much in few words. I think the two things that stand out for me is how stunned Kek was by the things we take for granted, and how grateful he was for each small thing. And the cow, how much the cow meant to him, what it symbolized, and how tenderly it was depicted. The first thing he says is, “Did you not see her? The brave cow in the snow?” And then a bit later, “To say the truth of it, she is not the most beautiful of cows. Her belly sags and her coat is scarred and her face tells me she remembers sweeter days.” And then when he finally pats the cow, “I stroke her cold, wet coat, and for a moment I hold all I’ve lost and all I want right there in my hand.” MASTERFUL. All that by only page 16. This is a book that touched my heart and my soul. Not just a best book for 2016, but a best book, period.
Becky says: Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson. Why? The three boys were wonderful heroes–the author threw obstacle after obstacle at them, and they kept going. And yet the story never got sappy–the ending so could have gone there and never did.
Kristi says: mine is a graphic novel. Ghosts, by Raina Telgemeier, is a beautiful tale about an adolescent girl whose sister is fighting cystic fibrosis. It’s literally haunting since it’s a ghost story. I love that she took on how it feels to be the sibling of someone who has a life-shortening disease. I love that she incorporated the Day of the Dead. I love that I picked it up and consumed it in one sitting.
Our own Jill Diamond’s Lou Lou and Pea sure is fun, with great characters, an awesome San Francisco-inspired setting, and its own Day of the Dead tie-in with sugar masks and altars. (Watch for an upcoming interview post with Jill.)
Jen says: I’m going to recommend The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill, (our January book for MG Lunch Break) but I’m not done with it yet so I’m not ready to state specifics. I’m reading it out loud to my kids and that goes slowly. Bonus book: my kids listened to and loved, and immediately requested the (for now, non-existent) sequel to, is Beetle Boy by M. G. Leonard.
Anne-Marie says: The Seeds of America Trilogy by Laurie Halse Anderson. (The final book, Ashes, was published in 2016.) I love the voices of the characters, the unique setting of Revolutionary War New York, then Valley Forge, then Yorktown. Anderson doesn’t shy away from the complications of slavery and freedom. The trilogy took some unexpected turns (switching narrators in Forge, for instance), but ultimately fulfills the promise of the setup in Chains. I love that for research Anderson stood barefoot in the snow–her description in the book is fantastic!
Beth says: The Crimson Skew by S.E. Grove. This final book in the Mapmakers trilogy is a fantasy adventure set in an alternate 1892 in which the Great Disruption has thrown different parts of the world into different historical ages. I loved the world building and all the different kinds of maps. The Glass Sentence, the first one of the trilogy, is probably my favorite.
Brigid says: I’m rereading Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin aloud to my son and loving it even more after reading it for myself this summer. It’s a book easily pegged as “quiet” because of its subject matter and the scope of the story — after abruptly moving with her family to NYC so her 5-year-old brother can begin a potentially life-saving three-month cancer trial, 11-year-old Thyme finds herself examining over and over what true friendship is as she adjusts to a new home and school, and navigates her parents’ evasions and white lies about whether the move to NYC is permanent. BUT, Thyme has a fantastic middle school voice and there’s plenty of great middle school drama, as well as a clever theater motif and an equally clever “counting time in NYC” (geddit?!) motif. Throughout the whole book I found myself laughing out loud or weeping (in public, no less).
Anne-Marie Strohman (co-editor) writes picture books, middle grade novels, and young adult short stories and novels. She is trained as a teacher, an editor, and a scholar, specializing in Renaissance Literature. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is an active member of SCBWI. Find her at amstrohman.com and on Twitter @amstrwriter.