Books For My Younger Middle-Grade Self #toptentuesday

September 8, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Books For My Younger Middle-Grade Self

TTT: 10 Books For My Younger Self (background image: a young girl sits on a curb reading a book)

top ten tuesday

I’m linking up today with That Artsy Reader Girl: Top Ten Tuesday: Books For My Younger Self

Is there a book you’ve read that you know you would have enjoyed when you were younger?

As an adult, I love Middle-Grade books, and I wish that the following ten middle-grade titles had been available for my younger self! (I could list more, but these came first to mind.)

What Middle-Grade books have you read that you know your younger self would have enjoyed?

a picture of my old (antique) copy of The Bobbsey Twins at School by Laura Lee HopeOne of the book series I enjoyed when I was younger was The Bobbsey Twins. This is an old copy I acquired. While some youngsters like stories about animals, adventure, or fantasy, I remember loving stories about family. Even today, I love a wonderful multi-generational family drama like A Place For Us.

I certainly wish there was more diversity available in reading material for my younger middle-grade self!

 

*Titles are Amazon affiliate links.

(more…)

10 Reasons Why I Love Middle-Grade Books #toptentuesday #middlegrade

May 19, 2020

Top Ten Reasons Why I Love Middle-Grade Books

Definition of Terms: Middle Grade Reader & Middle Grade Student

∗ A Middle-Grade Reader (ages 8-12) ≠ A Middle-Grade Student (grades 7-9)

These terms can be confusing. A Middle-Grade student (grades 7-9) is truly caught between groups and can read MG or YA. However, most YA (ages 13-18) is geared toward high school and is too mature for younger middle-grade readers who are 8-12 or middle-grade students who are in grades 7-9. There’s a vast difference between an eight-year-old reader and a twelve-year-old reader. Some middle-grade books are geared toward younger readers (e.g. Wishtree), and some authors such as Alan Gratz write for the more mature middle-grade reader (e.g Refugee).

∗ Middle-Grade Fiction is Typically Read by Readers Between Eight and Twelve Years Old.



I predict that either you read Middle-Grade Books or you don’t!

Middle Grade is a genre that you either embrace or avoid!

What say you?

Are you onboard with MG reading or are you standing on the sidelines?

I’m here to persuade you to try MG lit if you haven’t or to remind you why you love it.

Top Ten Tuesday (meme)

I’m linking up today with That Artsy Reader Girl for TTT: Top Ten Reasons Why I Love _____ . My focus is Ten Reasons Why I Love Middle-Grade Books.

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

1
Hope

Typically, Middle-Grade reads avoid content that includes graphic violence, sexual situations, and profanity. An unwritten expectation for middle-grade reads is that, despite dire circumstances, they are infused with hope and have hopeful endings. A few examples include Louisana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo (scroll down page for review), More to the Story by Hena Khan (Goodreads Review), and Wishtree by Katherine Applegate (Goodreads Review).

2
Complex Issues

One of the main reasons I love reading middle-grade books is that they can address complicated and difficult issues in an easy-to-understand and sensitive way. It’s a great introduction to heavier content. A few examples include Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradly (slavery), Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed (indentured servitude, education for girls), The War That Saved My Life/The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradly (WW11), Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper (racism, prejudice), Refugee (12+) by Alan Gratz (refugee crisis), Wonder by R.J. Palacio (physical differences), Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai (scroll down page for review) (immigrant, bullying), El Deafo by Cece Bell (hearing impairment), Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate (scroll down page for review) (homelessness), Front Desk by Kelly Yang (Goodreads Review) immigrant), Merci Juarez Changes Gears (Goodreads Review) (Alzheimer diagnosis), Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (prejudice)…and so many more.

3
Read in a Day

Most middle-grade reads can be read in a day by most adults. So if it’s December 28 and you’re a few books shy of meeting your year-end-challenge goal, pick up an easy reading middle-grade title such as The Vanderbeeker’s of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glasser, El Deafo by Cece Bell, or Wishtree by Katherine Applegate (Goodreads Review).

4
Conversation Starter

Instead of commenting on a girl’s beautiful dress, stunning nail color, or unique hairstyle or asking a boy if he is on a soccer team, try asking a middle-grade reader what book s/he is reading in class right now. You might be able to make a connection with that book or recommend a similar book and you’re off to an interesting discussion!

5
Palate Cleanser or Reading Slump Buster

After reading several heavy histfic books (just me?), intense thrillers, or dense nonfiction, you might be feeling burned out. A fast and engaging middle-grade read can jump-start your reading or give you the change of pace you are needing! I often use this strategy when I’m feeling ambivalent about choosing my next read.

6
Thoughtful Gift

Do you remember a book you received from a teacher or family member? I still remember the books I received! (I was the one that spent my entire winter break reading my new book!) Choosing the perfect book for someone is a thoughtful gift and is my favorite one-stop-shopping hack! A personal inscription and special bookmark can complete the gift.

7
Catch Up On a Popular Read

A great reason to read middle-grade books is to catch up on popular books you might have missed reading when you were in school. Have you read Chronicles of Narnia, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Bud Not Buddy, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, Bridge to Terabithia, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, By the Great Horn Spoon, Wonder, Where the Red Fern Grows, Brown Girl Dreaming, The Secret Garden, The One and Only Ivan, etc? What book do you wish you had read when you were 8-12?

8
Quality Time

Children spell love T I M E.

Setting up a “buddy read” with your child, grandchild, niece, or nephew is one way to spend quality time with a child. To discuss the book, you might take the child to lunch or to get ice cream or set up a Zoom meet up. A buddy read doesn’t have to be extra reading outside of school. You could simply read the same book as s/he is reading in school so that you can ask questions about it. Reading books together leads to grand discussions about the most amazing topics/issues! I love that through reading, important and relevant issues come up naturally.

9
Important Conversations

What I love (and miss) most about teaching fifth grade is that I could have the best conversations with my budding abstract thinkers! Middle-grade readers (8-12) are ready to think about the world and their place in it. Through reading, children gain experience with different cultures, perspectives, and issues. I love the diversity now offered in children’s literature. Reading builds compassion and understanding. For instance, if your child’s classroom has a student who is hearing challenged, you could read El Deafo together.

10
Make a Difference

If you work with children, have children, or know children in the 8-12-year-old range, reading middle-grade books will help you connect with them! If you are a pediatrician, nurse, dentist, hygienist, teacher, aide, Sunday school teacher, piano teacher, counselor, social worker, caregiver, nanny, or work with middle-grade readers in any way, reading what they are reading will help build connections, promote literacy, and WILL make a difference.

Inspirational story: A member of our family took her baby to the doctor for her one-year checkup and the pediatrician said, “You need to read ten books every day to your baby!” Yay, doctor!Thanks for promoting literacy at a one-year-old well-baby check!

Have I encouraged you to pick up a middle-grade read or do you already love middle-grade lit?



QOTD:

What is your favorite middle-grade title?

What is your favorite middle-grade read from your school days?



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



ICYMI:

10 Inspirational Reads For Middle-Grade March

Top Ten Signs That I’m a Book Lover

 Why getting lost in a book is so good for you according to science!



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***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and/or author photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

© ReadingLadies.com

 

#throwbackthursday Wonder by R.J. Palacio [Book Review]

May 14, 2020

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
#throwbackthursday

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for #throwbackthursday.

This year as part of Blog Audit Challenge 2020 I’m going back to update older review posts. On Thursdays, I’ll be re-sharing a few of these great reads, and today I’m sharing my review of a favorite MG/YA read, Wonder by R.J. Palacio. It’s on my lifetime favorites list and I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s a “must-read.”

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio (cover) Image: graphic of a mostly blank boy's head (one eye and a head of hair and ears are the only features) against a blue background

Genre/Categories: Middle grade through adult contemporary fiction,  growing up, difficult discussions, family life, friendship, compassion, character traits

My Summary:

“On the inside, ten-year-old August Pullman feels very ordinary. But as he says, ordinary kids don’t make other kids run away screaming and they don’t get stared at wherever they go. Auggie was born with a rare genetic abnormality that affected the formation of his face. Because of extensive surgeries and an attempt to protect him from cruelties of the outside world, Auggie’s parents have homeschooled him. The reader meets 5th grade Auggie as he’s being enrolled in a traditional school for the first time. Will he be accepted? Will he find friends? Will he find a hostile or friendly environment? How will adults in his life support him? The story is told from six perspectives (August, Via–his older sister, Summer–a friendly caring peer, Jack–a student leader who struggles in his role as a friend, Miranda–his sister’s best friend and a close family friend, and Justin–Miranda’s boyfriend) plus a bonus chapter from Julian’s point of view (Auggie’s nemesis).”

“Heart…Heroes…and Humor”

Continue reading my review of Wonder to see what I loved….

QOTD: Have you read Wonder or is it on your TBR?

#throwbackthursday Refugee by Alan Gratz [Book Review]

May 7, 2020

Refugee by Alan Gratz
#throwbackthursday

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for #throwbackthursday.

This year as part of Blog Audit Challenge 2020 I’m going back to update older review posts. On Thursdays, I’ll be re-sharing a few of these great reads, and today I’m sharing my review of a favorite MG/YA read, Refugee by Alan Gratz.

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Refugee by Alan Gratz (cover) Image: a small child with back to camera in a small red rowboat on a stormy ocean

Genre/Categories: Middle Grade through Adult, Historical Fiction, Global Issues, Refugees

My Summary:

“Refugee is the relevant story of the refugee experience from three unique perspectives:

  • 12/13-year-old Josef and family are Jewish and attempt to escape Nazi Germany in 1938 aboard a ship bound for a country(Cuba) that will accept them.
  • 12-year-old Isabel and family are Cuban and flee riots and unrest in Cuba in 1994 on a homemade raft pointed toward safety in Miami, Florida.
  • 12-year-old Mahmoud and family are Syrian and seek to escape war-torn Aleppo in 2015 and relocate to Germany.

Even though these families are separated by continents and decades, their stories share certain similarities. Each journey is fraught with harrowing adventures, frustration, courage, resiliency, heartache, injustice, persecution, dangers, children assuming adult roles and responsibility, loss of childhood innocence and joy, and loss of family members. However, the families have hope that drives them forward. Amazon Rating (May): 4.8 Stars (This is a very high rating in which 85% of the stars are in the 5 star category.)”

“See us, he thought. Hear us. Help us.”

Continue reading my review of Refugee to see what I loved….

QOTD: Have you read Refugee or is it on your TBR?

10 Inspirational Reads For Middle Grade March

March 9, 2020

10 Inspirational Reads For Middle Grade March

(top view) picture of a middle grade child reading on a recliner covered with a reddiish knitted afghan

Image Source: Canva

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

To participate in #middlegrademarch, I’ve compiled a list of ten (plus!) great Middle-Grade reads! There are many wonderful middle-grade books from which to choose and even though I haven’t read extensively in middle grade, these titles are stories that I’ve recently read and thought were exceptional because of their themes and/or diversity.

Often, children fall in love with reading in Middle Grade. Was this your experience? Children in Middle Grade have “learned to read” and they can fully immerse themselves in the world of words as they “read to learn” and “read for enjoyment.” They have more autonomy to choose their own reading material and can pursue individual interests. Many stories promote great family read-aloud experiences (or buddy reads). As a bonus, most Middle-Grade stories have heartfelt themes without the angst and/or objectionable language of YA. Reading builds understanding and compassion.

What theme do you think Middle Grade books have in common?

For adults, Middle-Grade books make the perfect palate cleanser or fit the description of books that can be read in a day. If I’m feeling in a reading “funk,” I often seek out a recommended Middle Grade read to stimulate my reading life once again. I love that Middle-Grade books almost always end on a hopeful note. This theme of hopefulness is one of the main reasons I love reading in the Middle-Grade genre. I strongly believe that great Middle-Grade literature can be enjoyed by adults!

In addition to all the above reasons to read Middle-Grade literature, I appreciate the authors who write diversely for Middle-Grade readers and write on difficult themes or topics in an easy to read and understandable manner. If we buy and read more Middle-Grade diverse literature, it will encourage publishers and writers to produce more. I think it’s important for children to see themselves in literature.

Middle-Grade Literature

(in no particular order)

(more…)

Brown Girl Dreaming: A Review

April 10, 2019

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming Review

  • Genre/Categories: Non Fiction, Poetry, Memoir, Middle Grade, Racism, Prejudice, African-American, Family Life

*This post contains amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

In free verse, Jaqueline Woodson shares her experience as an African-American growing up in South Carolina and New York during the 60s and 70s. An award-winning book, Brown Girl Dreaming is a poignant and inspiring story of a girl finding her voice and her place in the world. Even though she struggled with reading in childhood, she loved stories and blank writing paper as she held her dream of writing close to her heart.

(more…)

10 Reads For Middle Grade March

March 6, 2019

10 Reads For Middle Grade March

Middle Grade March

Image Source: Canva

To participate in #middlegrademarch, I’ve compiled a list of ten great Middle Grade Reads! There are many wonderful middle grade books from which to choose and even though I haven’t read extensively in middle grade, these titles are stories that I’ve recently read and thought were exceptional because of their themes and/or diversity.

Often, children fall in love with reading in Middle Grade. Was this your experience? At last, children in Middle Grade have “learned to read” and they can fully immerse themselves in the world of words as they “read to learn” and “read for enjoyment.” They have more autonomy to choose their own reading material and can pursue individual interests. Many stories promote great family read aloud experiences. As a bonus, most Middle Grade stories have heartfelt themes without the angst and/or objectionable language of YA. Reading builds understanding and compassion.

For adults, Middle Grade books make the perfect palate cleanser or fit the description of books that can be read in a day. I strongly believe that great Middle Grade literature can be enjoyed by adults!

In addition to all the above reasons to read Middle Grade literature, I appreciate the authors who write diversely for Middle Grade readers and write on difficult themes or topics in an easy to read and understandable manner. If we buy and read more Middle Grade diverse literature, it will encourage publishers and writers to produce more. I think it’s important for children to see themselves in literature. (more…)

Review: Amal Unbound

December 21, 2018

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Amal Unbound 2

Genre/Categories: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction, Pakistan

Summary:

Amal, living with her loving family in a quiet Pakistani village, dreams of becoming a teacher. Her educational goals are temporarily disrupted when her parents require Amal to stay home to care for her siblings while Mom recovers from childbirth. Amal is determined to keep learning despite the setback. However, events spiral out of control when Amal must work as a family servant for a corrupt landlord to pay off the family debt. Although Amal faces difficult challenges in her new and restricted life, she learns to work with others and is brave enough to take risks to affect change.

Amazon Early Rating (December): 4.8 Stars

My Thoughts:

“If everyone decided nothing could change, nothing ever would.”

Part of the purpose of this blog is to read diversely and to support women authors, so I’m thrilled to bring you this review.

Themes. This riveting story of a brave girl adapting to and affecting change in her circumstances is an inspiring story for all middle grade students and adults alike, and it serves as an introduction to the topic of indentured servitude as we experience forced labor through Amal’s circumstances. Nothing accomplishes building compassion and promoting understanding better than quality literature. Other themes include class structure, sexism, poverty, and the limitations that come from being born female.

Education. One reason this is an important book is for children to realize how important education is in a girl’s life and that not every girl in the world has this access. Even during Amal’s time working as an indentured servant, she didn’t give up hope of an education. In fact, the meaning of Amal in Arabic is “hope.” The author points out that millions of young girls fight for their right to an education. We may be most familiar with the popular and well-known Malala, and Amal represents all the lesser known brave girls everywhere.

Why read children’s literature? The story may seem idealistic and simplistic to an adult, but reading it as if you were the target audience (4th grade and up) will enable you to appreciate the introduction of a difficult and troubling topic to a young audience. In addition, I feel it’s important that children from every culture are able to find themselves in stories (realizing that Amal is only an example of one girl, from one family, and she is not a stereotypical representation of all girls from Pakistan culture). If we are buying these stories, publishers will take notice and more diverse literature will find its way into bookstores and classrooms. Finally, adult readers might want to make recommendations or buy gifts for children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews. Great literature can be enjoyed by every age, and this is a great example of a book to read with your children to generate important discussions.

Amal. Our strong-willed protagonist is a likeable and memorable character who is brave, smart, realistic, determined, smart, kind, inspirational, and a fighter. We read about her in honor of brave girls everywhere. A great companion read for this would be I Am Malala.

Recommended. I’m highly recommending this book for readers 4th grade and up, for readers who appreciate compelling stories, for fans of diverse reads, and for those looking for a strong female heroine. It will be on my best of 2018 list and it’s one I will widely and enthusiastically recommend.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-starhalf twinkle-twinkle-little-star

Amal Unbound

(Isn’t this a striking cover?!)

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Aisha Saeed

Aisha SaeedAisha Saeed (aishasaeed.com) is a Pakistani American writer, teacher, and attorney. Her writings have appeared in publications including The Orlando Sentinel, Muslim Girl magazine, and BlogHer. As one of the founding members of the much talked about We Need Diverse Books Campaign, she is helping to change the conversation about diversity in literature. She is also a contributing author to the highly acclaimed Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women, which features the story of her own (happily) arranged marriage. Aisha lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and sons.



Happy Reading Book Worms

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead:

To finish out 2018, the last posts I’m planning include one focusing on goals and challenges, one analyzing end of year numbers, a December Wrap up, and one featuring my best reads of 2018.



Links

Check Out My Gift Ideas For the Readers on Your Holiday Shopping List!

Books are wonderful last minute gifts.

“Everyone Gets a Book!”

gift stack of books



In Movie News….

Reese Witherspoon to produce “Where the Crawdads Sing” and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

And….here’s the trailer for Where’d You Go Bernadette starring Cate Blanchette.

(You might want to put these three books on your winter to read list in preparation!)



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

Do you read Middle Grade or Young Adult literature?

Do you enjoy reading diversely about other cultures?

Are you finding time to read in December?!

It’s time to start thinking about your best read of the year!



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

 

 

Summer Reading Ideas For Children

June 1, 2018

summer reading

If you have children in your family, what are your reading plans for the summer? Let’s talk summer reading for children with a focus on diverse reads!

Reading Clubs

May I encourage you to start a reading club with your children or grandchildren or niece or nephew? It’s a great way to promote literacy, make memories, and capture some bonding time. Some parents read books together with their children and other parents might assign reading to be discussed later at a special one-on-one lunch or dinner date. Reading the same high quality literature opens the door to many rich discussions of theme, character motivations, consequences, etc…. the discussion topic possibilities are limitless. Today I’m recommending great middle grade literature that adults will enjoy as well. It’s also fun if the book you’ve chosen has a movie adaptation for a family movie night.

 

wild robot

The Wild Robot series by Peter Brown is popular with upper elementary and middle grade readers. (I haven’t read them)

 

Reading Interviews

I’ll also encourage you to interview your children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews about reading.

Here are reading interviews I recently conducted with two elementary aged boys in my family.

Jjacksonackson, age 9, 3rd grade

Q: Do you have a favorite book?
A: The Bible (I like reading the stories in my Children’s Bible)

Q: In school, what’s the best book you’ve read and what caused you to love it?
A: Charlotte’s Web is my favorite book because I like Wilbur, the pig.
Q: What did you like about Wilbur?
A: Wilbur was childish, funny, friendly, and a dare devil.

Q: Why do you think reading is important?
A: Reading is good for vocabulary.

Q: What is your favorite type of story to read (genre)?
A: I like the I Survived stories. I like real stories that could have really happened.

Q: If your friend wanted you to recommend one great book to read, what book would it be?
A: I would recommend Charlotte’s Web.   

Then he asked me a question: What book would YOU recommend for ME? (great question that I wasn’t prepared for!) I recommended Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell because of his preference for survival stories (and because it’s a traditional 4th grade core lit text). I might reread it with him so that we can have a “book date”!

dylanDylan, age 12, 6th grade

Q: What is your favorite book ever?
A: The BFG is my favorite book.
Q: Why did you choose that one as your favorite?
A: I liked the plot and character development.

Q: Do you enjoy reading?
A: I enjoy reading when I have time and when I’m not busy with school projects.

Q: What is your favorite genre?
A: I don’t have a preference for genre. I like fiction and nonfiction. My main preference for books is that they are engaging and hold my interest. I also really enjoy a series.

Q: Why do you think it’s important to read?
A: Reading helps you be a better speller and writer. I noticed recently that I was writing better because I had noticed the way an author had written something.

Q: What are you reading right now?
A: I’m reading Roar of Thunder, Hear My Cry with my class.

Q: How do you get ideas for what to read next?
A: I ask my friends what they’re reading or I hear them talking about books.

Q: What is the next book you’d like to read?
A: I’d like to read The Hunger Games next. I heard some friends talking about it and it sounds interesting to me because it’s a series.

Q: Do you have a favorite character from the books you’ve read?
A: I like Harry Potter because he’s such a relatable character, and I can relate to the issues in his life. I think lots of kids like Harry Potter because he’s relatable.

Q: Do you have a favorite setting from the books you’ve read?
A: I loved the setting in Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. It would be great to live on an island and try to survive.

Q: If your best friend asked you for a book recommendation, which book would you recommend?
A: I would recommend Harry Potter. I really like that Harry Potter is a relatable character and that it is a series.



My Recommendations For Summer Reading With a Focus on Diverse Reads

I know there are hundreds of great books to recommend for children, but here are a few that I have read recently that parents might enjoy too (arranged by category):

* * * Diversity * * *

crenshaw 2

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
Genre: Fiction (Categories: poverty, homelessness, imaginary friends)
My Rating: 4 stars
Katherine Applegate is a popular children’s author best known for “The One and Only Ivan.” Crenshaw is a thought-provoking, beautifully, and creatively written story exploring poverty, homelessness, and imaginary friends. Because the content of this book builds compassion and the topic of homelessness might worry some readers, I recommend this as a “read together” book. (the main character is a boy)

Wonder

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Genre: Fiction (Categories: physical differences, kindness, compassion, acceptance)
My Rating: 5 Stars
Wonder has been positively reviewed by parents, teachers, and children,  it inspired the national “Choose Kind” campaign, and many of you have seen the movie. However, if you haven’t read the book, I think it’s a must read experience for everyone! This easy to read, engaging, and thought-provoking read paves the way for grand discussions and builds compassion and empathy…..I believe that the best teaching occurs within the context of a story. My full review here.

El Deafo

El Deafo by Cece Bell
Genre: Graphic Novel (Category: hearing loss)
My Rating: 3 Stars
For older elementary school readers who love graphic novels, this story about a girl who wears an assistive device for hearing is informational, heartwarming, and builds understanding. Although all characters are rabbits, I forgot about that once I became engaged with the story! Graphic novels are sometimes a great choice for reluctant readers.

*Several of the books below also fit in the diversity category.

* * * Historical Fiction * * *

 

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
(sequel: The War I Finally Won)
Genre: Historical Fiction (Category: World War11)
My Rating: 4 Stars
This author has also written “Jefferson’s Sons.”
The War That Saved My Life (and it’s sequel) is a WW11 historical fiction story about an adventurous, feisty, and brave girl with an invincible spirit who is shipped out of London along with her younger brother to escape the war.

Refugee

Refugee by Alan Gratz
Genre: Historical Fiction (Category: refugees)
My Rating: 5 Stars
(this would also fit in the diversity category)
Recommended for mature middle grade readers, this is a riveting refugee story told from three perspectives over several decades and several locations (Syria, Germany, Cuba). It’s an engaging, unputdownable, and relevant read for middle graders and adults, and it features two boys and one girl as main characters. Refugee is one of my favorite mature middle grade reads and you can find my full review here.

Inside Out and Back Again

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Genre: Historical Fiction (Categories: Vietnam to America, new culture, bullying)
My Rating: 5 Stars
(this would also fit in the diversity category)
Told in free verse from the perspective of ten-year-old Ha and inspired by the author’s own experiences, this is a poignant and beautifully written story of a family’s escape from Vietnam to America. This refugee and immigrant story builds compassion and is filled with thoughtful reflection as Ha experiences grief, bullying, learning English, new foods and customs, a neighbor’s kindness, finding her voice, family loyalty, and the comfort of old traditions. A perfect read for older elementary or middle grade readers and enjoyable for adults as well. Don’t miss this beautiful book!

Stella by Starlight

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper
Genre: Historical Fiction (Categories: African-American, prejudice)
My Rating: 4 Stars
(this would also fit in the diversity category)
Stella by Starlight is a beautifully written and important historical fiction read for middle graders with important themes (personal and historical) that will allow for a great discussion. Stella is brave, curious, kind, thoughtful, intelligent, and an aspiring writer with a unique voice. She is a relatable and memorable character for readers as she deals with racism, the KKK, and community issues.

* * * Memoir * * *

we beat the street

We Beat the Street: How a Friendship Pact Led to Success by Sampson Davis
Genre: Nonfiction (Categories: memoir, friendship, education, career, African-American)
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
(this would also fit in the diversity category)
This is an inspiring (and sometimes gritty) story of how three aspiring boys of color from poor communities became friends and supported each other in their common goal of becoming doctors. We Beat the Street is the middle grade version of a YA book, The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise to Fulfill a Dream. Today, they can be found at The Three Doctors Foundation.

* * * Science * * *

Finding Wonders

Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins
Genre: Historical Fiction (Category: women in science)
My Rating: 4 Stars
Finding Wonders is a beautifully and creatively written historical fiction story for older middle grade girls that explores the childhood lives of three girls who are curious, love questions and the world around them, and are persistent in pursuing their love of science and scientific inquires. Each girl grows up to become a scientist and makes important scientific contributions. Middle grade girls will enjoy reading about the early interests of these real women scientists (in a historical fiction format). This story could easily lead into research projects.

* * * Classics * * *

Of course, parents and grandparents can always revisit beloved classics with their children and grandchildren. For example,
Little Women
Heidi
Anne of Green Gables
Emily of New Moon
Nancy Drew Mysteries
The Hardy Boys
Chronicles of Narnia
The Hobbit
Little House on the Prairie
Ramona Books
…and many, many others!



Reading and Dyslexia

* * * * * Listen to This or Read the Show Notes! * * * * *

Listen to 6th grade Ben on the Modern Mrs Darcy “What Should I Read Next” podcast talk about reading! It’s a guaranteed delightful episode. Ben has dyslexia and has used audio books to become an avid reader. This is a great bookish discussion that will motivate kids toward their summer reading goals and includes some terrific recommendations.

A few titles Modern Mrs Darcy suggests for Ben:
The Red Wall Series by Brian Jaques (fantasy….written especially for audio enjoyment)
Gregor The Overlander Series by Suzanne Collins (fantasy, author of Hunger Games)
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Van Glaser (similar to Penderwicks series)
Sammy Keys and the Hotel Thief Series by Wendelin Van Draanen (funny mysteries….tough girl main character)
Green Ember Series by S. D. Smith



Links I Love:

The Novel Endeavor: 10 Perfect Audio Books For Summer Road Trips

The Novel Endeavor: Fairytale Retellings for Families

Ten Ways to Woo a Reluctant Reader



Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



PBS: The Great American Read

How many books have you read of the hundred on the list? Which ones will you vote for? Were you surprised by any on the list? Do you plan to vote on your favorite reads? I’ve already voted for Gone With the Wind!



Looking Ahead:

Next week, I’ll be highlighting recs for Dads …… I’ll be in the process of reading Backman’s new release Us Against You……sequel to Beartown….. releasing 6/5)…my most anticipated new release of the year! My husband and I plan to “buddy read” it and a review will be coming some time in June. I’ve read some positive early reviews already.



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss!

I’d love to hear about your summer reading and, if you have children in your life, what summer reading looks like in your family.

Do you have a book your children have enjoyed that you can recommend?

Also, please share what you’ve been reading lately and/or your thoughts about The Great American Read sponsored by PBS.

I enjoy a good middle grade read once in a while. Do you ever read children’s literature?



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s website.

 

 

Refugee [Book Review]

October 20, 2017

Trust me: This is a great read!

“See us, he thought. Hear us. Help us.”

Refugee by Alan Gratz

Refugee by Alan Gratz (cover) Image: a small child with back to camera in a small red rowboat on a stormy ocean

Genre: Middle Grade through Adult, Historical Fiction, Global Issues, Refugees

Summary:

Refugee is the relevant story of the refugee experience from three unique perspectives:

  • 12/13-year-old Josef and family are Jewish and attempt to escape Nazi Germany in 1938 aboard a ship bound for a country(Cuba) that will accept them.
  • 12-year-old Isabel and family are Cuban and flee riots and unrest in Cuba in 1994 on a homemade raft pointed toward safety in Miami, Florida.
  • 12-year-old Mahmoud and family are Syrian and seek to escape war-torn Aleppo in 2015 and relocate to Germany.

Even though these families are separated by continents and decades, their stories share certain similarities. Each journey is fraught with harrowing adventures, frustration, courage, resiliency, heartache, injustice, persecution, dangers, children assuming adult roles and responsibility, loss of childhood innocence and joy, and loss of family members. However, the families have hope that drives them forward. Amazon Rating (October): 4.8 Stars (this is a very high rating in which 88% of the stars are in the 5-star category)

My Thoughts:

Refugee is an important story because it gives refugees a face and a name, and the timeliness of the Syrian refugee family is relevant to current events.

I appreciated the tightly woven plot and seamless transitions between points of view. As the author worked to tie the stories together, the reader notices that all three journeys to safety involve a boat and that children are forced to take on adult responsibilities and worries. In addition, the kindness of strangers and glimmers of hope keep them going forward in each story.  Interesting parallels involve Josef fleeing Germany in 1938 and Mahmoud’s family escaping to Germany in 2015; furthermore, Josef’s family tried to gain entry into Cuba in 1938 and Isabel’s family sought to flee Cuba in 1994.

Refugee is engaging from page one and unputdownable. I never felt like I was reading a middle-grade selection except to reflect on how middle-grade readers might react to certain parts of the story. Yes, the story has 12-year-old narrators, but it’s the story of families and how they support each other in the most difficult circumstances. Even though adults will enjoy this story, it’s easily accessible for middle school readers (appropriate language, straight forward writing style, and not overly graphic or violent). That being said, the content is difficult at points (some events can be emotional and some historical perspective is probably needed). I recommend this for mature middle graders who are able to read this with a parent or teacher, and it will easily hold an adult’s interest as well and lead to excellent discussion opportunities.

The most powerful parts of Refugee include the author’s unique structure and smooth transitions between points of view of three refugee families. The POV from innocent children was especially powerful and moving, especially as the oldest children were forced to handle adult responsibilities and make difficult decisions. One powerful idea in the story was Mahmoud’s understanding of being visible or invisible. He learned through his life in Aleppo that being invisible helped him survive and avoid bullies; however, he quickly realized that refugees couldn’t stay invisible if they wanted help from the world. It’s only when people are visible (make waves, rock the boat) that people will notice them and take action. In his own words:

“They only see us when we do something they don’t want us to do,” Mahmoud realized. The thought hit him like a lightning bolt. When they stayed where they were supposed to be–in the ruins of Aleppo or behind the fences of a refuge camp–people could forget about them. But when refugees did something they didn’t want them to do–when they tried to cross the border into their country, or slept on the front stoops of their shops, or jumped in front of their cars, or prayed on decks of their ferries–that’s when people couldn’t ignore them any longer.

Even though some readers might consider the ending slightly contrived as two of the families intersect, I appreciated a somewhat uplifting ending.

Refugee rates as one of my most memorable reads of the year and is highly recommended for readers age 12 through adult who are searching for a riveting histfic read, for parents and/or teachers who are looking for diverse reads to build global empathy and understanding of the effects of war and oppression and the refugee crisis, for book club members who are interested in discussing challenging themes.  *Caution: It’s my opinion that even though this is shelved as middle grade (grades 5-8), younger children in this range might find the occasional violence and harsh realities too much for them. It’s actually perfect for high school readers who already have helpful historical knowledge of the events. I would encourage parents to “buddy read” Refugee with their younger middle-grade children. It might be an especially interesting read for any families who have relatives that came to America as a result of being “sponsored.”

My Rating: 5+ Stars

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Relevant: A book for younger middle-grade readers (but also enjoyable for adults) with a similar refugee theme might be Inside Out and Back Again (reviewed here as an “extra” in this post).

Refugee

Refugee Information Here

Meet the Author, Alan Gratz

Author, Alan Gratz

Alan Gratz is the author of a number of books for young readers, including Refugee, Ban This Book, Prisoner B-3087, Code of Honor, Projekt 1065, the League of Seven series, and The Brooklyn Nine. I live in the mountains of western North Carolina with my family, where I enjoy reading, playing games, and eating pizza.

 

 

 



QOTD:

I’d love to hear in comments if you’re planning to put Refugee on your TBR. Does the refugee crisis topic interest you? Do you enjoy reading diverse books? Do you seek out titles that differ from your go-to genres? Do you think middle grade and/or YA selections can be appreciated by adults? Or would you rather that I not alert you to outstanding fiction for different ages?



Happy Reading Everyone!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


Extras:

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (cover) Image: large black text over an orange spiralIn last week’s blog post, I indicated that I would review Turtles All the Way Down by John Green this week. I read it, but then I read Refugee after that and loved it so much more that I changed my mind on the blog’s focus this week–because, above all, I’m committed to bringing you recommendations for the best of what I read. I’m including a brief reflection of Turtles All The Way Down here in the extras in case you were looking forward to the review and are a John Green fan!

 

Genre/Categories: YA, social and family issues, mental illness, coming of age

Strengths:  Turtles All the Way Down deals with a very important subject and I’m assuming the author represents an authentic voice…..I appreciate that the reading experience allowed me to gain additional understanding of OCD and I loved Aza and was deeply moved by her thoughts, angst, and experiences. It is important to know that the inspiration for this book came from John Green’s own personal experiences with OCD.

Weaknesses: A lot is going on—which probably is typical of a teenager’s life and the YA genre (mother/daughter relationship, best friend, school, coming of age, boyfriend, lizard, crime-solving, astronomy, abandoned/neglected boys, etc); and the plot was meh because there were too many things happening on multiple fronts and many details that didn’t make sense in the story (e.g. a high school kid gets $50,000 and doesn’t tell her mom?). Other readers have highly rated this book and/or love John Green so I encourage you to read it and form your own opinion.

My Rating: 2.5 Stars rounded to 3 Stars

For the Amazon rating, summary, and purchase information click here.


Looking Ahead:

I have a couple of ideas from recently published titles regarding my next read, but I haven’t finalized my selection. I’m waiting for Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (contemporary chick-lit fic) to become available on Overdrive (library app) and I recently bought If the Creek Don’t Rise by Leah Weiss (Appalachia setting) which looks promising. Subject to change if I find something better! What are you reading this week?


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***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

The book covers and author photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

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