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2018 Gift Guides
Best Middle-Grade Chapter Books of 2018
HISTORICAL FICTION / MAGICAL REALISM
Set in Victorian London, this is a beautiful, bittersweet story about a plucky girl and her protector golem which in the telling, illuminates the horrifying lives of chimney sweep kids as well as the world’s anti-semitism. Young Nan’s Sweep father-figure is gone; she still dreams of his kindness and their life before he left. To survive, she works for a cruel chimney sweep. When another child sweep tries to burn Nan alive, a charcoal golem who was a piece of charcoal left to her by Sweep emerges to save her. She and her growing protector golem, Char, find a new, safer place to live but must stay vigilant so her old master doesn’t find them. On their own, they are helped by a street boy and a kind Jewish teacher. Sweep is an irresistible story that will expand your heart…and your definition of what makes a monster.
Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo
What a luminous, sparkling gem of a book with quirky, complex characters! Granny drags Louisiana out of bed in the middle of the night, insisting that they leave their home to confront the family curse. Not only does Louisiana not want to leave her friends and home but things get even worse when Granny abandons Louisiana at a motel along the way. Forced to fend for herself, Louisiana figures out how to survive miles from home while worrying that the family curse has destined her for an unhappy life. You won’t want to miss a moment of this enthralling, emotionally resonant story.
The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty
REALISTIC / BOOKS ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS – OCD
My daughter and I love this book — it was her favorite of 2018 by far! The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl is a thoughtful coming-of-age story about a girl genius with OCD whose grandma wants her to go to public middle school for three reasons: to make one friend, read one non-math book, and join one school activity. Although she’s reluctant to go, Lucy finds friends and connects with a rescue dog for a school project. It’s a well-written, heart-warming story that will change your perspective of mental illness and give you hope for humanity.
Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
Harbor Me tackles very big issues including race, immigration, bullying, learning differences, friendship, and forgiveness. The story is about six diverse children with learning differences. They bond during a special group, kids-only time on Friday afternoons where they share their stories, many of which Haley records on a tape recorder. Even as she learns the others’ stories, Haley is reluctant to share how her own dad is in jail for the car accident killing her mother. When she does eventually share, it’s beautiful to see how the other kids support her. This incredible story deserves to be not just read but discussed deeply as it contains a wealth of ideas to ponder.
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