As summer wraps up, I wanted to share some of my new favorite middle-grade titles. If you like historical fiction, Lifeboat 12 is a must-read. Artists will love The Frame-Up mystery novel. Fantasy lovers, you don’t want to miss the enchanting Willa of the Wood whose beautiful cover is one of my favorite covers EVER. But, there are even more good books on this list. See for yourself…
7 Middle-Grade Chapter Books I’m Loving, Summer 2018
Set in the time of early American settlers, this is a beautiful story of love about a night-spirit still connected to the powerful wood magic of her ancestors. Willa accidentally discovers that her clan is keeping human captives and technology, and now the Faeran leader wants her dead. Alone and hunted, Willa cautiously observes a human man, slowly learning to trust him. When she realizes that one of his children was one of the human captives she saw and not dead like he thinks, Willa knows what she must do. The author deftly explores the meaning of family, as well as the themes of prejudice and caring for the natural world. I think you’ll find this to be a magical story that you won’t want to put down. Added to: Best Middle-Grade Chapter Books of 2018
The Magic of Melwick Orchard by Rebecca Caprara
Wow! This is magical realism at its best. I loved this sweet story about a family in crisis due to the younger sister’s cancer and mounting medical bills. The older sister, Isa, discovers the magic of their new farm’s orchard— and their magic has some powerful lessons to teach her. So does her little sister, Junie. I loved so much about this story— the close sister relationship, the character arc of Isa, the power of nature, the sisters’ wordplay…this story is a heart-warming hug that belongs on every shelf.
The Frame-Up by Wendy McLeod MacKnight, illustrated by Ian Schoenherr
MYSTERY (MAGICAL REALISM)
When I saw this book at the library, I knew I’d love it. And, I did. Celebrating artwork, this magical mystery reveals that paintings are alive. Of course, the Beaverbrook Gallery paintings have strict rules to prevent humans from discovering this truth. Only Mona Dunn doesn’t always follow the rules. She’s seen by the curator’s son named Sargent who is visiting his estranged father for the summer and they develop a close friendship. Meanwhile, she and the other paintings wonder if the creepy art restorer is an art forger because something is suspicious. The book shows copies of all the paintings including a Salvador Dali which give readers a vivid sense of where much of the book takes place — in the paintings themselves. It’s an excellent, page-turning mystery with important themes about family, forgiveness, and friendship.
Lifeboat 12 by Susan Hood
HISTORICAL FICTION (based on a true story)
Thinking Hitler will invade England next, Ken’s family sends him to safety in Canada. But, Ken’s ship is torpedoed and sunk only days into the journey Written in verse, this is a moving account of bravery as Ken, several other kids, a priest, the ship’s only woman, and members of the crew spend weeks adrift at sea in an ill-stocked lifeboat. You’ll read about their swollen feet, dehydration, and starvation as well as the stories and songs that helped keep the kids distracted and somewhat hopeful. Ultimately, you’ll be left with a sense of amazement at the resiliency of the human spirit. Very well-written.
Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin
REALISTIC / MENTAL ILLNESS
12-year-old Della’s mom is sick again– acting like she used to before she went into the mental hospital. Her dad is stressed about their farm and finances, and Della thinks she can fix everything, mostly her mom. She hopes that the local honey, which is reported to have healing powers, will cure her mom. Eventually, Della comes to a hard-earned, painful acceptance of her mom’s mental illness, schizophrenia. Added to my list: Mental Illness in Children’s Books.
This is National Geographic’s first fictional book series with full-color illustrations that hits the spot with an exciting mix of science, technology, adventure, and mystery. Newly accepted into the prestigious Explorer Academy for science and exploration, Cruz realizes that someone is trying to kill him; someone who doesn’t want him finding out about his mother’s mysterious research and untimely death. There’s tons of cool tech, amazing friendships, plot twists, plus an intriguing premise– I can’t wait to read book 2!
Snared: Escape to the Above (Wily Snare) by Adam Jay Epstein
Wily grows up below ground thinking he’s an orphan and that the “Above” will burn his skin. But when he’s taken above ground by invaders, he learns both those so-called truths are lies. Working with the group of thieves who took him, Wily puts his trapsmith skills to use helping his new companions steal enough to leave the country of the Infernal King. That is until Wily discovers who his mom and dad are — now he has two very big reasons to stay and fight. Adventure, friendship, and fantasy combine to make an entertaining fantasy story.