Category Archives: middle-grade fiction

Sticks and Stones by Abby Cooper

There are times when we read a book and decide that it is one of those books that everyone should read. Granted, as a book blogger I tend to encourage people to read a lot of the books that I read, but Sticks and Stones by Abby Cooper is one of those gems that have such wonderful lessons told in such a remarkable way that I wish more kids would pick it up.sticks and stones.jpg

The concept of the story is that Elyse is a 12 year old girl who has a rare disorder that makes the words other people say about her appear on her body. The words form on her skin like a tattoo and if they are negative, they itch.  When she was little, it wasn’t such a big deal, the words were kind like “cute” and “adorable.” But now Elyse is entering middle school and the words are definitely less kind. On top of it all, now anything that she even thinks about herself shows up as well. Continue reading →

The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City

Welcome back to Middle Grade Monday! This week I am reviewing The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City, by Jodi Kendall. Thank you to @KidLitExchange for a copy of this book to review. All opinions are my own.

pig in the city

Summary from Goodreads:
Josie Shilling’s family is too big, their cramped city house is too small, and she feels like no one’s ever on her side. Then, on Thanksgiving Day, her older brother, Tom, brings home a pink, squirmy bundle wrapped in an old football jersey—a piglet he rescued from a nearby farm. Her name is Hamlet.

Continue reading →

Etiquette & Espionage

The year is 1851 and women are expected to be perfect hostesses, focus on fashion, complete with full petticoats, and always behave as a proper lady. Fourteen year old Sophronia is much more interested in climbing trees and figuring out how machines work than behaving as she is supposed to. It has gotten to the point that her mother wants to send her away to finishing school.

etiquetteBut this is not your average finishing school and not your average Victorian setting. This is Etiquette and Espionage, by Gail Carriger, where the school not only teaches them how to be ladies, but how to be a spy. It is also 1851 as envisioned by Steampunk – a genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology. So in addition to horse drawn carriages, there are also dirigibles, mechanical servants, and even mechanimals.

I had never heard of this book, but it is on the 2018-19 Middle Grade Battle of the Books list. If I had time, I would probably go on to read book 2 and 3 of the series, as I get a kick out of Steampunk, but at the moment, I lack that time. Continue reading →

Ashes to Asheville

One of the reasons that I love the NC Battle of the Books so much is that it encourages kids to read things that are outside of their normal scope or favorite genre. Here in this house we are getting a jump start on next year’s list. The first one that I finished is Ashes to Asheville, by Sarah Dooley. This had been on my radar, but only because we had been given an advanced review copy in a game at our local bookstore.


Ashes to Asheville is a very different book than the ones we normally read. The entire book takes place in a 24 hour period and is told from the perspective of 12 year old Ophelia “Fella” Madison-Culvert. The book is an emotional roller coaster that takes on the topics of what makes a family and the process of grieving. It also touches on respecting people’s wishes, even after they have died. Continue reading →

Refugee by Alan Gratz

There are times when books and history or social studies lessons go hand in hand. Refugee is one such book. This should be on required reading lists for middle graders, and adults might learn a thing or two from it as well.

Screen Shot 2018-03-12 at 9.59.43 PM

I first heard of Refugee as it was coming out last summer and pre-ordered a copy (side note – it really helps authors when you pre-order their books for a wide variety of reasons). We became big Alan Gratz fans with The League of Seven series and have enjoyed his works. More recently, I heard an interview with Alan Gratz on the Kit Lit Drink Night Podcast. In it, Gratz talked about how he had originally planned to write a book about the Holocaust but wound up writing about refugee situations in 3 distinct time periods. I finally managed to read the book and all I can say is wow. Just wow.

If you haven’t already heard about the book, here is the basic rundown from the jacket:

Three different kids. One mission in common: ESCAPE. Continue reading →

Battle of the Books


Today my 5th grader participated in the North Carolina Elementary Battle of the Books. I love these competitions. They gather a group of kids who love reading, have them read a list of books that are both in and outside of their comfort zones, and then challenge them to a battle quiz bowl style. It is very much like the bookish March Madness. Okay, maybe that’s pushing it, but there are some similarities.

The philosophy behind the competition is “to encourage reading by all students at the middle school level. Students, regardless of ability, are exposed to quality literature representing a variety of literary styles and viewpoints by prominent authors in the area of young adult literature. The game format creates interest and excitement in reading. Through the fun and excitement of the competition, students improve reading skills, mature in their choices of reading materials, and acquire a broader knowledge base. Even during the height of the competition, students and coaches should remember that the goal is to READ, not necessarily to win!

One of the harder things for the students to comprehend that even when you bring your A game, you might not walk away the “winner,” but that by participating and doing your best, you are definitely ahead of the crowd. The school with the most points “wins,” but there are so many variables that go into getting those points, including sheer luck of the draw on questions and the various teams you are up against (if one team gets the answer wrong, the other team has the chance to get a few extra points on redirect). Our team came in third place today, but I couldn’t be prouder of them! Continue reading →

Payback on Poplar Lane

Thank you to @kidlitexchange and Viking Books for the preview copy of Payback on Poplar Lane. All opinions are my own.


I will admit that I tend to gravitate toward realistic fiction, historic fiction, and fantasy. But I also think that reading outside of you or comfort zone is important, which is why I encourage kids to participate in Battle of the Books style competitions. So, while I don’t typically read humorous fiction, I know a lot of kids who do and I wanted to expand my horizons. When I first read the description of Payback on Poplar Lane, it sounded like a fun book and one I was willing to test out. While I did not personally love the book, it was a very well written book that I can easily see a large group of middle grade readers enjoying.

ABC’s Shark Tank meets The Terrible Two when a pair of sixth grade entrepreneurs compete to become top mogul on their block.

Twelve-year-old Peter Gronkowski prides himself on being a professional businessman. Tired of the clichéd lemonade stands that line his block, he decides to start a better business with the help of an intern. But his intern of choice, the quiet and writerly Rachel Chambers, turns out to be more than he bargained for. Rachel is innovative, resourceful, driven–and when she’s had enough of Peter’s overbearing management style, she decides to start a competing empire next door. As their rivalry and sabotage tactics become more outrageous–Slander! Espionage! Lemonade threats!–Peter and Rachel ultimately learn the hard way that “nothing gold can stay” and that friendship is more important than money. Continue reading →

Charming Stories from Jenny Lundquist

Middle Grade Monday

Thank you @kidlitexchange and Jenny Lundquist for providing me with a copy of these books to read and review. All opinions are my own.

There are times when you want to just become friends with the characters in the books that you read. Or maybe that’s just me. The girls in the “Izzy Malone” series are so realistic and true to life that I just want to crawl into these books and never let them stop. A great addition to the middle grade books out there, the main point of these books is to show tweens that life is complicated, that we need our friends to help us sort things out, and that we need to be true to ourselves and who we are inside. I’m in my 40s and still trying to figure some of that out!

izzy.jpgThe series begins with The Charming Life of Izzy Malone. Izzy Malone is in 6th grade and feels like she doesn’t fit in. She doesn’t want to talk about boys, clothes and make-up; she would rather talk to the stars and be out on the water with her kayak. She has her own fashion style that many people don’t understand. She desperately wants to be on the rowing club, but can’t seem to make it into that clique. Her older sister is a prodigy musician and can do no wrong while Izzy finds herself routinely at the principal’s office. She even feels like she has to make an effort for her own mother’s attention. After her latest trip to the office, her parents decide she needs to be sent to charm school.

Continue reading →

Introducing Middle Grade Mondays

As my children have gotten older and their reading tastes have changed, so have my personal reading preferences and this blog. One area that I have really found myself drawn to is middle grade fiction. In an attempt to give this blog something of a focus and to give a space to the wealth of different genres out there, I’ve decided to try out focusing on middle grade books on Mondays.

Middle Grade Monday

Middle Grade Fiction is a subset of the children’s book world where the books are aimed at 8-12 year olds. The term came about as a way to separate the growing section of Young Adult (YA) novels dealing with the difficult process of the teenage years and meaty books for proficient readers. There are some really wonderful blog posts out there to help explain the differences, but suffice it to say, when you compare MG to YA you tend to see books that are:

  • sightly shorter in length (though books like Harry Potter definitely challenge that notion)
  • dealing with external issues versus deep internal ones
  • less likely to deal with romantic relationship issues

I don’t remember a wealth of great middle grade fiction when I was growing up. I remember that the books I tended to gravitate towards were Sweet Valley High, Christopher Pike (Chain Letter anyone?), and V.C. Andrews. Continue reading →

My Brigadista Year

Thanks to the @kidlitexchange network for the free review copy of his book – all opinions are my own.

I have found that I really enjoy reading middle-grade historical fiction. They are an amazing way to learn about periods in history from a completely different perspective. Of course, I realize that you have to take the information with a grain of salt, but they encourage readers to ponder aspects of history and potentially do additional research themselves.

Recently I was given the opportunity to review My Brigadista Year, by Katherine Paterson, thanks to the Kid Lit Exchange. This book tells of an “army” of volunteer teachers who were called upon to end illiteracy in Cuba shortly after Fidel Castro came to power. The book itself takes place between March and December of 1961 as we follow young Lora on a life-changing journey.


Lora is a thirteen year old girl inspired by the posters put up at her school that called for young men and women to join an army of teachers. She has never been outside of Havana and her family doesn’t want her to participate, but she is determined. Continue reading →