By Svetlana Chmakova
New York: Yen Press, 2017.
Genre: Graphic Novel Realistic Fiction Grades: 5 and Up Pages: 239
This is a great realistic fiction, graphic novel from the author who brought us Awkward. Yes, middle school students are very awkward but they are also brave! Author Chmakova likens middle school to one of the Top 10 Natural Disasters! Not only does main character Jensen agree but also he thinks he is in a video game where his mission is just to make it through each day… “without getting eaten by the game monsters…” Just who are those monsters? The math teacher who has no mercy for mediocre, the girls who laugh at him and the boys who bully him for being overweight. Therefore, each day he runs “the gauntlet” where the only safe spots are art club and the school newspaper. Jensen is the boy at school who sits alone at lunch and the one not picked for a group in class. However, today when the teacher asks for a volunteer to partner with Jensen, Jorge raises his hand and volunteers! Jorge is a big jock with a soft spot for those who get bullied and so Jensen begins to have some allies in school. This is a great book to help students establish some empathy as you feel the pain of being laughed at, being used and finally cheering as Jensen becomes brave enough to speak up for himself!
By April Henry
New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2016.
Genre: Mystery/Thriller Grades: 6 and up Pages: 227
Best-selling author April Henry never disappoints! Opening chapter has Olivia running for her life—knowing if she slows down and is caught, she will be killed—just like her mother. Only her mother was murdered fourteen years ago and Olivia would not have been in her current situation if she had not decided to find out what really happened that day when they all went into the woods looking for a Christmas tree to cut down. Olivia was three at the time and was with both her mother and her father but the killer dropped her off at Walmart before leaving Medford. All these years Olivia was sure it was her no good father but when she returns to Medford the entire city becomes full of suspects. Henry has written another great who-dun-it, that is a page-turner to the end! Middle school students will love this thriller!
By Carol Goodman
New York: Viking, 2017.
Genre: Fantasy 355 Pages Grades 5 and Up
This was an interesting read. It is historical, a mystery and a fantasy book all rolled up into one. The story is about four kids coming from very different backgrounds and meeting on December 7, 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was bombed. They become unified in the quest to stop a Nazi plot that is to take place four days later in New York City! It is their diversity that unites them—one a Japanese American, one Jewish, who was sent to the U.S from Europe when his parents were taken to ghettos/concentration camps, one an orphan separated from siblings, and one who is of Indian descent. They have each been selected to find the Kelmsbury Manuscript, which has been separated into, parts—all containing clues that will help them to figure out the plot against the U.S.A. The Kelmsbury is no ordinary book; it is about the legends of King Arthur. Each of the characters in the story unknowingly takes on a role in the book and has a special power to help them. See how they unite, overcome self-serving behavior to have good triumph over evil!
Midnight Dark Star
By R.T. Martin
Minneapolis: Darby Creek, 2017.
Thriller 88 Pages Grades 7 and Up Reluctant Readers
This reminds me of an old sci-fi movie and perfect for reluctant readers who need a fast pace thriller. Claire is not doing well in high school science class—she is getting desperate and when her teacher offers Saturday night extra credit—Clare has no choice but to cancel her plans with friends. Misery loves company and soon her friends join her Saturday night extra credit. It was the new smart girl, Val, who came up with going out to the bluffs to watch the meteor showers. But, she does not know the history of the
bluffs—the bluffs where a whole senior class disappeared many years ago. But this mysterious new girl has a dark side, a very dark side and Claire and her friends will not soon forget the night they spent at the bluffs—if they survive.
The Bicycle Spy
By Yona Zeldis McDonough
New York: Scholastic, 2016
Historical Fiction 193 pages Grades 5 and Up
This is a great, quick and easy middle grade read! This story takes place during WW II in a small French town called Aucoin, where Marcel and his parents lived and ran a bakery. Marcel loved school and the Tour de France, a famous bike race held every year in Paris. In fact, he would often ride his bike through town dreaming about one day being in that great race. This year, 1943, the race was canceled again due to the war. Although German soldiers occupied much of France Marcel’s little town was more neutral, in fact, some people were part of the French Resistance Movement. But you had to be careful because your friends or neighbors could be Nazi sympathizers. Marcel attended school, rode his bike and often made deliveries for his parent’s bakery. What he didn’t know was that some of his friends and family were in great danger and he might be the only one who could help them! This is a great book for younger middle school students as it will give them a perspective of on World War II that they might not be familiar with. A book of courage and friendship.
Yona Zeldis McDonough Website
By Karen Harrington
New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2016.
Grades 5 and Up Realistic Fiction 344 Pages
Wayne Kovok is fact nerd! He loves to collect facts and whenever there is a lull in the conversation or when he gets anxious and doesn’t know what to say—he spouts out a fact! Now many might think him odd but not Sandy Showalter, the prettiest girl in his middle school—they actually went out!
Wayne tells the story in two parts—before and after. Before—when his divorced mom, retired drill sergeant grandfather who often is very critical of Wayne, and his Uncle Reed are out to lunch. They are all getting together before Uncle Reed gets deployed for the fourth time and life returns to normal.
Then there was a tragic event that makes Wayne get on a plane and on the return to home flight–the after begins. After—the plane crash. During a storm, a back part of their airplane comes apart leaving a gaping hole in the side of the plane. The pilot was able to crash land the plane and some survived; including Wayne and his mother. Wayne suffered a crushed windpipe and a large “L” shaped gash across his face. Wayne was left feeling a loser with survivors remorse, unable to speak and spout off facts. To make things worse his granddad moves in to help out and his estranged father continues to try and establish a relationship with Wayne.
You will not be disappointed in this story about family relationships and healing both physically and emotionally.
Not As We Know It
By Tom Avery
New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2015.
Grades 5 and Up Realistic Fiction 159 Pages
Ned and Jamie are twins but they don’t look much alike. Jamie is tall and healthy and Ned smaller and suffers with cystic fibrosis. This is a condition that causes recurrent lung infections which over time causes the lungs to fail. Ned’s breathing is getting worse day by day.
Mom decides to home school the boys to keep Ned away from other germs, granddad, a retired seaman, who teaches the boys geography and shares folktales from his time at sea. These tales include stories of merpeople and of other creatures great and small with mystical powers. Ned and Jamie love to take adventures along the seashore where they live which includes taking in treasures they find along the way and daydreaming about granddads stories. After a good storm and Ned feeling pretty good, the boys go off and find a treasure that both feel confident will change their lives. A creature that looks half human and half fish—they name him Leonard and store him secretly in the garage until it mends. Find out if this creature holds some mystical power that can fulfill both boys hopes and dreams.
A story that will touch your heart for sure!