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As I commute to work I listen to a lot of audiobooks. I can listen to several books back to back, but then I need a palate cleanser of sorts. Sometimes this comes in the form of turning on the radio for a couple of days or listening to a few podcasts before starting a new book. Other times, I can get out of my listening rut by starting a middle grade novel. 

I have found that middle grade fiction is perfect to listen to in the car because the books are extremely engaging, yet if I miss something while I’m paying attention to the road; it usually it isn’t hard to figure out what I missed. As an added bonus, middle grade novels are often perfect for the whole family to listen to together. 

Here are seven—it was hard to narrow this list down—of my favorite middle grade audiobooks. Try one out on your next road trip, commute, or errand run! 

1.30 EchoECHO
by Pam Munoz Ryan
(2015)

This was by far my favorite read of 2016! I sang the praises of this audiobook in this blog post and continue recommending this book to anyone looking for an amazing audiobook.  

 

1.30 The Indian in the CupboardTHE INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD
by Lynne Reid Banks
(2005)

I remember reading this book in elementary school and feeling captivated by its magical story. I recently listened to the audiobook (read by the author) and again enjoyed this wonderful book. The series has five books in total, so if you like this story, there are plenty more. While I didn’t enjoy the movie quite as much as the book, it’s a pretty good adaptation.  

 

1.30 The Wild RobotTHE WILD ROBOT
by Peter Brown
(2016)

I loved the music and sound effects on this audiobook. I’m not usually a fan of too many extra things when listening to a book, but this one was well done. The sound effects added to the story in a very charming way.  

 

1.30 Because of Mr. TeruptBECAUSE OF MR. TERUPT
by Rob Buyea
(2013)

I read this book in print form a few years ago and really loved the story. I started listening to the audiobook the other day (maybe so I could make sure this title could be included in this list) and am enjoying the story in audio format as well. I’d recommend this book to those who liked WONDER, since it has a similar feel and both talk about bullying. This is the first book in a trilogy.

 

1.30 Gregor the OverlanderGREGOR THE OVERLANDER
by Suzanne Collins
(2005)

I enjoyed HUNGER GAMES and had heard that this book by Suzanne Collins was also very good. I started listening to this series (there are five books total) when I lived in Virginia. I loved every single book in the series and am so glad I gave these books a try.  

 

1.30 MatildaMATILDA
by Roald Dahl
(2013)

I loved this movie when it came out in the 90s! This fall I decided that I needed to listen to the book (and then re-watch the movie of course) and it did not disappoint! Kate Winslet does an excellent job narrating, and it’s perfect for all ages. 

 

1.30 Mustaches for MaddieMUSTACHES FOR MADDIE
by Chad Morris
(2017)

Add this as another book for WONDER fans. This was a very touching story which had me in tears a few times. Be sure to listen to this one with some tissues at the ready.

 

Friday Faves Chinese New Year Lantern

As a kid, I learned almost nothing about China in school.  We studied Utah History, American History, and even “World History,” but somehow the world was about Egypt, Greece and Rome, with only a cursory nod towards Asia.  It wasn’t until I took Asian Humanities in college that I began to be aware that there were really amazing civilizations thriving in China while Grecian and Roman emperors were strutting around Europe claiming to have conquered the “known world.”  Since then I have really enjoyed reading books set in China, both ancient and modern.  Here are some of my favorites. And you just have time to read one before Chinese New Year on February 16th. 

1.26 Where the Mountain Meets the MoonWHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON
By Grace Lin
(2009)

Each book in Lin’s series blends adventure with Chinese folktales.  In this one Min Li is worried about her poor village that is suffering from famine because of a lack of rain.  Plucking up her courage, she goes on a quest to meet the Old Man of the Moon and ask him how to help her family and friends. 

 

1.26 Chu Jus HouseCHU JU’S HOUSE
By Gloria Whelan
(2004)

When a baby girl is born into Chu Ju’s family in modern rural China, she runs away so that her parents—hoping for a boy and limited to two children—will not send away the new child. She goes to the city and creates a new life for herself. 

 

1.26 Bronze and SunflowerBRONZE AND SUNFLOWER
By Wenxaun Cao
(2017)

Sunflower moves from the city to a farming camp with her father during the Cultural Revolution.  When her father dies, Sunflower is adopted by a local peasant family and learns how difficult rural life in China really is. 

 

1.26 The Kite RiderTHE KITE RIDER
By Geraldine McCaughrean
(2002)

Haoyou is given the amazing opportunity to escape his family’s poverty and become a circus performer in medieval China.  As he rides on a giant kite and performs tricks before commoners and noblemen, other forces are pulling him back to his family. 

 

1.26 The Empty PotTHE EMPTY POT
By Demi
(1990)

The emperor proclaims that whoever can grow the most beautiful plant from the seeds he provides will be his heir. Ping accepts the challenge, but no matter what he does, his seeds won’t grow.  As the day of the judging approaches, Ping must decide what to bring to the all-powerful emperor. The other books in this list are novels, but I couldn’t resist including this folktale because it is one of my favorite picture books of all time.

 

 Favorite Reads of 2017

One thing I love about this time of year is all of the Best Of lists that come out.  What were the top news stories?  What movies and TV shows were most popular?  Did I watch any of them?  (Probably not, unless it was Star Wars or the Great British Baking Show.)

This got me wondering if there was a way I could make a Best Of list of my own.  Luckily, I work with some pretty awesome people who have great taste in books, so I asked them: What was your favorite book you read this year (not necessarily published this year), and why did you like it so much?  Here’s the list of books that were recommended:

1.25 Above the Dreamless DeadABOVE THE DREAMLESS DEAD
Edited by Chris Duffy
(2014)

"I loved this collection of WWI poetry illustrated by some stellar graphic novelists. The artwork was all at once harmonious accompaniment and fresh perspective."

 

1.25 The Black WitchTHE BLACK WITCH
by Laurie Forest
(2017)

"I think it handled a lot of social issues really well and I loved the main character’s personal growth. That doesn't happen a lot in teen literature."

 

1.25 Eleanor Oliphant is Completely FineELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE
by Gail Honeyman
(2017)

"It moved me in a way that few books have ever been able to." 

 

1.25 I Will Always Write BackI WILL ALWAYS WRITE BACK
by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda
(2016)

"This book made me tear up on several occasions and there were multiple times that I sat in my driveway continuing to listen (to the audiobook) because I had to find out what happened next."

 

1.25 A Study in Scarlet WomenA STUDY IN SCARLET WOMEN
By Sherry Thomas
(2016)

"I loved the Lady Sherlock series by Sherry Thomas (A STUDY IN SCARLET WOMEN and the second book CONSPIRACY IN BELGRAVIA).  Besides being excellent, page-turning, keep-you-guessing mysteries, the gender-swap concept was so well executed it was like original historical fiction rather than an adaptation on classic characters and stories."

 

1.25 SourdoughSOURDOUGH
by Robin Sloan
(2017)

"It was light and charming but it did also make me think about issues that are important to everyone - why do we slave at jobs we don't like?  How does a person re-imagine themselves and create a life they can love every day? Though the plot was a little fantastical the book reminds you to open your mind to new habits and interests."

 

1.25 Strange the DreamerSTRANGE THE DREAMER
by Laini Taylor
(2017)

"Laini Taylor’s world building felt deep and rich with tradition, and I loved how this book is a brand new take on the classic hero’s journey.  Also, Lazlo Strange is a librarian with a great imagination, so of course I liked him!"

 

1.25 Turtles All the Way DownTURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN 
by John Green
(2017)

"I loved its realistic and honest portrayal of living with anxiety and OCD, the realistic characterizations and relationships, and the rather unusual story underneath all of it."

 

Those were some books we liked this past year.  What did you read that you really loved?

Looking for other book recommendations?  You can always check out our book review blogs here and here.  And if you want the list of books we especially loved, click on the Staff Picks label on the right.  You can also fill out a Personalized Reading Recommendation form to get personalized recommendations from one of our librarians.

 Robert Burns

I’m only slightly embarrassed to say that my first exposure to Robert Burns came in 2003 from an episode of Lizzie McGuire. Ever since then, I’ve been interested in Bobbie Burns (as he’s called in his native Scotland) and in Burns Night, one of the more random celebrations you’re likely to learn about. Every January 25th, people all over the world (okay mostly in Scotland) celebrate the life of Robert Burns on Burns Night by hosting a Burns Supper where you eat Scottish food and act Scottish and celebrate Scotland (people in Scotland are clearly very into being Scottish).

So, for those who don’t know, who was Robert Burns? And how can you celebrate your own Burns Night?

Robert Burns, who lived from 1759-1796, is definitely the most famous Scottish poet of all time, and there is something so distinctly Scottish about his writing that he is often regarded as the national poet of Scotland. His poetry is famously written in the Scots language (so it’s a little hard to understand) but it also deals with themes that are important to the Scottish people—life, death, loyalty, country, agriculture, etc.

For these reasons and others, people were eager to keep the Spirit of Robert Burns alive after he died—and so Burns Night came into existence. Burns’s fanboys are divided on exactly what Burns Night should be; for some it is a night of drinking and revelry, for others it is a somber academic endeavor. Some aspects, however, are non-negotiable.

1.24 Classic Recipes from ScotlandCLASSIC RECIPES FROM SCOTLAND
By Tom Bridge
(2005)

To properly celebrate the Great Robert Burns, you need to eat like him. Though haggis and blood pudding are traditional, you can probably get away with meat pies instead. 

 

1.24 Because I Could Not Stop My BikeBECAUSE I COULD NOT STOP MY BIKE, AND OTHER POEMS
By Karen Jo Shapiro
(2003) 

A key part of any good Burns Night is the reading of poetry inspired by, about, or even satirizing good ol’ Bobbie. This children’s book has goofy parodies written in the style of a lot of well-known poets including Burns. 

 

1.24 WhiskeyWHISKEY
By Michael Jackson
(2005) 

Most die-hard fans agree that Burns Night is not complete without scotch—and this definitive guide will tell you all you need to know about how to pick the best scotch, bourbon, or whiskey. Of course, if that isn’t quite your speed, this book is also a great novice guide to learn about how scotch is distilled. 

 

1.24 The Complete Works of Robert BurnsTHE COMPLETE WORKS OF ROBERT BURNS: CONTAINING HIS POEMS, SONGS, AND CORRESPONDENCE
By Robert Burns
Edited by Allan Cunningham
(1860) 

Ultimately, and despite what people may say, the one thing you truly need to celebrate Burns Night is a reading of his poetry. Luckily, you can check out the Complete Works of Robert Burns with your Overdrive account so you can have them wherever you go. I’m personally partial to “To a Haggis” or the near-epic “Tam O’Shanter” because of how decidedly Scottish they are. 

 

AULD LANG SYNE

And of course, if you are unsure how to end your Burns Night, the traditional ending is with the singing of his most famous song – Auld Lang Syne. You can download lots of versions of this song for free from Freegal using your Provo City Library Card.

 
Image from page 337 of "Hill's album of biography and art : containing portraits and pen-sketches of many persons who have been and are prominent as religionists, military heroes, inventors, financiers, scientists, explorers, writers, physicians, actors, via photopin (license)

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