The One and Only Ivan
Ivan has a small life within the glass walls of his domain in the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. He watches TV and spends time with Bob, a stray dog, and Stella, an elephant. He makes art using crayons and paper given to him by his owner, Mack. He doesn’t think of his early life or his far away home in the jungle. And then Ruby, a baby elephant comes to the Big Top Mall, and everything changes. The mall is the wrong place for Ruby, and it’s up to Ivan to make everyone see that. He must find a way to show the humans where he and Ruby … Continue reading
Irena’s Children: Young Readers Edition
Tilar J Mazzeo
Translated by Mary Cronk Farrell
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Available September 27, 2016
During World War II, Irena Sendler worked with an underground network to rescue 2,500 Jewish children from Nazi occupied Poland. Her unwavering commitment to human rights began long before the war, and endured through her own incarceration and torture. She worked tirelessly to save as many as she could, and through it all insisted that she was not a hero. She’d only done what any ordinary human would do.
Though it’s nonfiction, I could not put this book down. I was so captured by the life of this incredible woman … Continue reading
The Doorway and the Deep
K. E. Ormsbee
Available October 4, 2016
Lottie struggles to learn how to use her gift of healing so she can save her best friend Eliot. She must hurry, because the longer Eliot stays in the land of Limn, the sicker he’ll become. When her hosts in the South make a bargain with the elusive Rebel Gem of the Northerly Kingdom, Lottie and her friends must travel north instead of returning Eliot home. A treacherous king’s servant, a powerful shape-shifter named Iolanthe pursues them, sending assassins after Lottie. To protect her, Lottie’s companions must make a dangerous journey to find the … Continue reading
Illustrated by Jon Klassen
Balzer + Bray
Pax was only a kit when his family was killed, and “his boy” Peter rescued him from abandonment and certain death. Now the war front approaches, and when Peter’s father enlists, Peter has to move in with his grandpa. Far worse than being forced to leave home is the fact that Pax can’t go. Peter listens to his stern father—as he usually does—and throws Pax’s favorite toy soldier into the woods. When the fox runs to retrieve it, Peter and his dad get back in the car and leave him there—alone. But before Peter makes it through even … Continue reading
Be Light Like a Bird
Capstone Young Readers
After Wren’s father unexpectedly dies, her mother rips her away from her only home. Move after move takes Wren further and further across the country, and Wren can’t help but wonder what her mom is running from. Then Wren finds a beautiful pond to secret herself away to watch birds the way she and her father used to do. When Wren discovers the local landfill owner plans to demolish her sacred place, Wren vows to stop him.
The birdwatching elements felt very natural to me. I’m not an experienced birdwatcher by any means, but my daughter and I kept a journal … Continue reading
The Year of the Book
HMH Books for Young Readers
When a social shift at school leaves Anna without her best friend, she turns to books for companionship. When she feels pressure in Chinese class because she doesn’t know as much as the other kids, books are her refuge. But as the people in Anna’s life begin to experience troubles of their own, she learns that sometimes, just like the heroes in her stories, she must step out into the unknown and offer help. Sometimes, Anna learns, this is precisely what makes for the best friendships.
Anna charmed me from the first page. I loved the descriptions of the stories she read, and though … Continue reading
That’s Not Hay in My Hair
Jules finishes fifth grade just in time to move from her tiny New York apartment to a 300 acre ranch in Texas. While her mom overflows with confidence that she and Jules can care for the longhorn cattle, horses, dogs and cats on their own, Jules carries some doubts. Sure enough, zany adventures abound as she and her mom struggle to find their inner cowgirls. Through it all, Jules determines to remain positive. When tragedy strikes, though, she’ll have to reevaluate her feelings for her new Texas life.
Turner really hits her stride in the scenes in which one wacky event follows another. In one, Jules struggles to … Continue reading
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Ten year-old Manami loves her home on peaceful Bainbridge Island. Then her family and other Japanese American members of the community are forced to relocate to internment camps. Manami tries to smuggle her family’s dog, Yujiin, into the camp, but is forced to leave him behind. The foreign circumstances and grief over her lost dog cause her to stop speaking. Instead, Manami expresses herself through drawings she creates every night. She draws memories of Yujiin and writes asking him to find her family. She will only find her voice again if she can work through her guilt over losing Yujiin.
This realistic debut tackles a dark moment … Continue reading
Top Ten Middle Grade Reads (2015-2016)
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today, my spin on the topic is this: middle grade reads. As the parent of an enthusiastic middle grade reader, I’m always looking for books that will spark conversations, explore interesting ideas, or generate all those deep emotions as only a well-written book can. Here are the best of the middle grade books I’ve read in the last couple of years.
The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
I loved the way the author used information about jellyfish in this … Continue reading
Jewell Parker Rhodes
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Available July 12, 2016
When Deja’s family loses their home and are forced to move to a shelter, she starts fifth grade at a new school. She’s embarrassed by her family’s situation and braced for judgment from the other kids. Instead, Ben, also a new kid, and Sabeen, a sweet girl who covers her hair with a scarf, become Deja’s new friends. As their teacher, Miss Garcia, begins a unit about history connecting to the present, the class learns about the World Trade Center towers falling on September 11, 2001. The material covered in the classroom is gentle and oblique, but Deja feels there’s a … Continue reading