Middle-Grade

  • 6 Books for Boys 01

    Ever wonder how librarians hone their recommendation skills? Sometimes, our librarians play a game we call the 6 Degrees of reading. The rules are simple: choose six books, each connected somehow to the book above it, with the last book in the list connecting to the first. Periodically, we like the results enough to share them with you. 

    Here are six classic books that boys love to read!

    DEAD END IN NORVELT
    by Jack Gantos
    (2011)

    Unfortunately for Jack Gantos, at any sign of trouble or stress he instantly gets a nose bleed. Since there’s no money to fix his nose, Jack just has to deal with being different. A series of events and an overprotective mother leave Jack grounded from everything except helping the old lady next door—a professional obituary writer. But this depressing start to summer soon takes off with a bang in this wacky coming of age story.  

    PAPERBOY
    by Vince Vawter
    (2013)

    Victor Vollmer has long accepted he’s a little different. His stutter makes talking a huge chore, but he has his tricks and can make it through most days without too much trouble. When summer comes, however, his best friend asks Victor to take over his paper route for a month. It seems like a simple way to make a little extra money and help out a friend, but Victor is in for both a heart-warming and terrifying lesson in human nature and his own self-worth.  

    SUMMER OF THE MONKEYS
    by Wilson Rawls
    (1967)

    Jay’s twin sister is a cripple, but the family is too poor to do anything about it. One summer Jay discovers that a family of escaped circus monkeys has taken residence down by the river. With the help of his grandfather, Jay plans to capture the monkeys and claim the reward—making his family rich. Humorous and heartfelt moments abound in this slightly fantastical story.  

    BY THE GREAT HORN SPOON
    by Sid Fleischman
    (1963)

    Jack and his butler, Praiseworthy, seek to restore the family’s lost riches in the California gold rush. Two gentlemen couldn’t be further out of their element from the moment they set foot on the steamer ship headed west from Boston. This rip-roaring bit of historical fiction features its fair share of interesting factoids and tall tales.  

    THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
    by Mark Twain
    (1884)

    Twain, the king of tall tales, hits a home run in this classic story of roughing it down the Mississippi river. Huck and the escaped slave Jim find themselves meeting a panoramic jumble of the good, the bad, and the ugly in this surprisingly thoughtful look at the way people treat each other. 

    LITTLE BRITCHES: FATHER AND I WERE RANCHERS
    by Ralph Moody
    (1950)

    When he is 8-yrs-old, Ralph Moody’s family moves from New Hampshire to rough it on a cattle ranch in Colorado, a place where the wild west wasn’t that long ago. Ralph, nicknamed “little britches,” comes of age in this true story about giving your all, being a man, and enjoying the little things while you have them.

  • magical circuses

     

    Read-alikes: library jargon for “If you like this, you’ll probably also like this other thing!” Those of us who work at libraries are constantly on the hunt for read-alikes both as a professional courtesy to our patrons and as a way to satisfy our own voracious reading appetites. 

    (We have a variety of resources to find great read-alikes; the easiest way to find them is to click on the “Reading Suggestions” tab of our website). 

    One read-alike game I like to play is to find similar books across audiences. Can I find the writing qualities and characteristics of adult fiction authors I love in a middle-grade book? What about a book for teens? It’s a little bit like watching fiction grow up. So today I have for you three books that I feel like share some striking similarities even though they’re written for vastly different audiences. Three books; three audiences; three magical settings rich with detail and complex characters. Magical realism for all ages. 

    MIDDLE-GRADE 

    11.2.17 Circus MirandusCIRCUS MIRANDUS
    By Cassie Beasley
    (2015)

    Micah Tuttle has grown up hearing stories of a magical circus his grandpa visited as a boy. Now that his grandpa is dying, he sets off to find the mysterious circus in order to save his grandpa’s life. The narrative jumps back and forth between present day Micah and his new friend/school project partner Jenny on their quest to save his grandpa and his grandpa’s experiences as a boy at the circus. Kids with vivid imaginations will love the lush description of Circus Mirandus. 

     

     

    YOUNG ADULT

    11.2 CaravalCARAVAL
    By Stephanie Garber
    (2017)

    Okay, this one isn’t exactly a circus, but it is a magical, carnival-like setting. With an arranged marriage on the horizon, Scarlett figures this is her only chance to realize her dream of seeing Caraval, a legendary audience-participation event. When she and her sister arrive, things get much more complicated than they imagined, and the consequences turn dire fairly quickly.

    As is the case for most young adult books, we trade the innocent guy/girl helpful friendship of the middle-grade years for a fast-paced, “I hate you/I love you” storyline.There is banter; there is kissing; there is action, and adventure, and magic, and a carousel that my imagination loves to ride again and again. 

    ADULT FICTION 

    11.2.2017 The Night CircusTHE NIGHT CIRCUS
    By Erin Morgenstern 
    (2011) 

    I could go on and on about THE NIGHT CIRCUS; I read it about a year after its release, and I’ve honestly been looking for adequate read-alikes ever since. It wasn’t until this year that I’ve actually felt like I found them (hence this post!). Reading THE NIGHT CIRCUS is a sensory experience; not many novels can hold up to occasional second-person narration, but it’s perfect here. When I read it, I crave caramel popcorn and hot chocolate. The descriptions of the circus are rich and vivid and I’m always sad it doesn’t exist for real. 

    THE NIGHT CIRCUS is a long, magical game, pitting two champions, Celia and Marco, against one another in a magical battle to the death (though it takes years of competing to realize this). In THE NIGHT CIRCUS, we trade that fierce, instant love of teenage years (CARAVAL takes place over just three days!) for a nuanced relationship born in intrigue and cultivated through hearty and beautiful and, ultimately, deadly competition.

    I should also mention that I’ve listened to all three of these as audiobooks, and I actually recommend that if you’ve got the time and resources (which you do, thanks to the library!). This is especially the case with THE NIGHT CIRCUS, which is read by Jim Dale and is just delightful.

  •  Letter Writing

    There is a lot of excitement around our house when the mail carrier drives down the street every afternoon. We are lucky and our mail is delivered after school.  My kids inevitably fight over whose turn it is to get the mail. If it happens to be close to someone’s birthday there will be a birthday card from my grandma, but other than that, it ends up mostly being junk. I have started wondering . . . 

    Do children even know what an actual, real-live letter is? The digital world has taken over and understandably so. Communication is much quicker through texting and email. The up and coming generation’s knowledge of “mail” mostly consists of fliers with a few bills mixed in (and even most of those are now paperless). I have realized they don’t have very many opportunities to experience true letter writing. The idea of writing a letter and having to wait for a response almost seems to be a foreign concept in today’s world. All types of news can be received almost instantaneously. I wanted to have my children understand what it used to be like, when all communication had to be through letters. Enter the world of reading. A person can be engulfed in a pretend sequence they have never experienced for themselves. I am intrigued and amazed by authors who use letters back and forth to characters in order to tell the story. It adds an interesting element for the reader. Around our house we have read some books recently that reminded us how exciting the process of letter writing can be.   

    6.25 Love Ruby LavendarLOVE RUBY LAVENDER
    By Deborah Wiles
    (2001) 

    Nobody likes it when their grandma moves away. Ruby had been living with her grandma and they were basically best friends until her grandma moves to Hawaii—of all places—to be with a new grandbaby. Ruby sends letters to her grandma to keep her informed of all the happenings in their small town and to ask, every letter, when she is coming home. Ruby is taking care of some chickens she rescued and the chickens have babies. There are some hard elementary school friend growing pains she experiences, which are harder because her grandma isn’t around.  

     

    6.25 Extra CreditEXTRA CREDIT
    By Andrew Clements
    (2009) 

    Abby does not want to flunk the sixth grade, so when her teacher offers an extra credit assignment to have a pen pal in Afghanistan, she signs up. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, Sadeed wants to do the pen pal assignment as well, but deeming it inappropriate for an 11-year old girl and an 11-year old boy to be pen pals, Sadeed enlists his little sister to be Abby’s pen pal. Abby has to post the letters she receives on the bulletin board to receive the full extra credit points. Some interesting twists and turns make it tricky to decide if she can post all the letters she receives. She comes up with clever ideas to get her extra credit, but also be true to her pen pal—or pals as the case may be.  

     

    6.25 Dear Mr. HenshawDEAR MR. HENSHAW
    By Beverly Cleary
    (1983) 

    Leigh Botts writes a letter to his favorite author, Boyd Henshaw, every school year. He finally receives a reply and Mr. Henshaw asks Leigh questions and asks for his reply. Reluctantly, Leigh answers the questions Mr. Henshaw asked in his letter. Leigh decides he might actually like writing and Mr. Henshaw encourages him to keep a diary to help him cope with his parent’s divorce and some hard relationships at school, including someone who is daily stealing from his lunch. 

     
  • newbery

     

    As you may have heard, our Library Director, Gene Nelson, is a member of the Newbery Committee this year. In a show of solidarity, many of us are taking on the challenge to read as many books for kids aged 0-14 as we can get our hands on. Though I haven’t been keeping up with Gene’s feverish reading pace, I’ve read more middle grade novels this year than in the past several years combined (I’m going to blame that on a toddler and a Netflix addiction). While Gene must remain mum about what books he’s eyeing for the award, as a nobody to the committee I’m free to share my opinions about things I’ve been reading. In no particular order, here are my favorite middle-grade novels of 2016 so far.

     

    paxPAX
    by Sara Pennypacker
    (2016)  

    Every so often, you notice unintended patterns in your reading. When choosing my favorites of the year so far, I found myself deciding between two excellent novels about children and foxes, and PAX edged out MAYBE A FOX by Kathi Appelt. Both are excellent; PAX is remarkable. This book manages to address themes of loyalty, friendship, abuse, trust, and the price of war all while telling the simple story of a boy and his fox. Any attempt to simplify PAX’s storyline in this blurb doesn’t quite do justice to the book. It’s about finding truth in unexpected places; it’s about learning to be strong; it’s about the weight of our decisions, and learning how to know whether you’ve made the right one. The prose is lyrical, the characters are engaging, and the book is great.

     

    hourofthebeesHOUR OF THE BEES
    by Lindsey Eager
    (2016)

    Middle-grade fiction is chocked full of grandparent stories. I’m not quite sure what it is that draws writers to the premise—perhaps a the feeling that we need to know where we come from to understand where we’re going—but there are countless stories of surly 12-year-olds visiting curmudgeonly grandparents and learning life lessons along the way. At first, I thought HOUR OF THE BEES was just another one of these stories, but I was mistaken. After a few chapters, the book jolted me awake and grabbed my attention with a parallel magical story that transforms this book from just another grandparent story to something amazing. To say more would be to spoil a surprise, but you really shouldn’t miss this one. Bonus: it’s by a local author!

     

    summerlostSUMMERLOST
    by Ally Condie
    (2016)

    More than any book on this list, SUMMERLOST gave me all the feels. Ally Condie describes this book as a book about “falling in friendship”, and she absolutely delivers on that promise. This isn’t a love story; it’s a friendship story of the best kind. Cedar Lee and her mother and younger brother move to the town of Iron Creek for a summer as they’re trying to cope with a devastating loss in their family. Trying to escape her grief, Cedar throws herself into a job and finds a friendship and a mystery that get her through the summer. You’ll laugh! You’ll cry! You’ll want to get a ticket to the Shakespeare Festival, and you’ll be grateful for your family and friends and the way that they buoy you up in times of trouble. Bonus: Ally Condie is local as well!

     

    raymienightengaleRAYMIE NIGHTINGALE
    by Kate DiCamillo
    (2016)

    One of my favorite things about Kate DiCamillo’s writing in RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE is the way she manages to communicate big concepts in small sentences. RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE finds young Raymie preparing to compete in the Little Miss South Florida Tire contest as a way to try to convince her absent father to come home; along the way she makes friends with would-be competitors, learns to twirl a baton, and finds out what her soul was made for.

     

    maydayMAYDAY
    by Karen Harrington
    (2016)

    I said this list was in no particular order, but I lied: MAYDAY just might be my favorite so far. MAYDAY is gripping right from the start. From the publisher’s description: “Wayne Kovok lives in a world of After. After his uncle in the army was killed overseas. After Wayne and his mother survived a plane crash while coming back from the funeral. After he lost his voice.” Just that description makes me want to read it again! MAYDAY is equal parts funny and substantive as it explores the ways that family helps and (maybe) hinders the healing process. There is a grandparent, there is an absent father, and at the heart of the book is an interesting main character just trying to find his voice. READ THIS BOOK!

     

    It’s July, which means that there’s still plenty of time for more great books to come out! What’s your favorite middle-grade novel of the year so far? What did I miss? 

  • christmasy

    So much of the Christmas season is simply magical during childhood:  twinkling lights, glittering snow, crackling fires, the smell of warm cookies, favorite holiday songs, an abundance of decorations, the anticipation of giving and receiving gifts, etc…  However you celebrate, what you love most is probably steeped in personal traditions that you look forward to every single year.  Of course, a favorite tradition for many people is breaking out their beloved childhood Christmas books.  You gotta love a good Christmas book!  Whether your favorite characters include Scrooge, Charlie Brown, Rudolph, or the Grinch, surely there’s at least one story that you love to read every single year.  I’ve realized, however, that some of my favorite Christmas stories aren’t really Christmas stories at all!  But they have beautiful Christmas scenes that pull at my heartstrings whenever December rolls around.

    So whether you’ve overdosed on too many Hallmark movies and need to take a step back, or all of a sudden it’s next June and you’re yearning for a little holiday spirit, here are five not-Christmas kids’ books with Christmas scenes that will put the warmth and magic right back in your heart:

    12.22 Harry PotterHARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE 

     
    12.22 Little WomenLITTLE WOMEN

     
    12.22 The Lion the Witch and the WardrobeTHE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE
     

    12.22 The Mysterious HowlingTHE MYSTERIOUS HOWLING

     
  • IMG 0398

    Often when a children’s librarian thinks of an illustrated novel, the first thing that comes to mind is Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  There are a plethora of recent children’s books have that cartoon style illustration, but what about books with a more traditional style of illustration?  In the J Fiction section there are some books with amazingly beautiful illustrations.  Of course there are wonderfully illustrated versions of most of the children’s classics like Peter Pan, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, but there are more contemporary books that also have great illustrations.   Here are some illustrated children’s novels that are worth taking a peek at.

     

    searchforwondlaTHE SEARCH FOR WONDLA
    by Toni DiTerlizzi
    (2010)

    This captivating storyline is set apart by fabulous illustrations that give a whole new level of dimension to the adventure. Living in isolation with a robot on what appears to be an alien world populated with bizarre life forms, a twelve-year-old human girl called Eva Nine sets out on a journey to find others like her. Features "augmented reality" pages, in which readers with a webcam can access additional information about Eva Nine's world.

     

     

     

    dinotopiaDINOTOPIA: A LAND APART FROM TIME
    by James Gurney
    (1998)

    In 1862, after being shipwrecked in uncharted seas, Professor Arthur Denison and his twelve-year-old son Will find themselves washed up on a strange island where people and dinosaurs live together peacefully. This fun storyline is enriched with colorful, intricate illustrations that give vibrant insights to the new discoveries Arthur and Will encounter at every turn as they embark upon their own separate journeys to unearth the mysteries of Dinotopia.  

     

    motelofthemysteries

    MOTEL OF THE MYSTERIES
    by David Macauley
    (1979)

     It is the year 4022; all of the ancient country of USA has been buried under many feet of detritus from a catastrophe that occurred back in 1985. Imagine, then, the excitement that Howard Carson, an amateur archeologist at best, experienced when he stumbles upon a still-sealed burial chamber! This is an amusing satirical tale of how a future anthropologist would interpret what we view as contemporary civilization, complete with meticulous illustrations to give life to the story as Carson attempts to unravel the mysteries of the past.

     

    harrypotterandthesorcerersstoneHARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE
    by J.K. Rowling, Illustrated by Jim Kay
    (2015) 

    By now, we're all familiar with the tale of the young orphan who discovered he had magical powers, was whisked away to wizarding school, and fought against forces of evil. This best-selling book has entirely enchanted readers since it was first published in 1999-- but this new illustrated version is even better! With whimsical illustrations by Jim Kay, an already classic novel is colorfully reframed in this vivid telling of Harry Potter's first year at Hogwarts.

     

    marvelsTHE MARVELS
    by Brian Selznick
    (2015)

    The journey begins on a ship at sea in 1766, with a boy named Billy Marvel. After surviving a shipwreck, he finds work in a London theatre. There, his family flourishes for generations as brilliant actors until 1900, when young Leontes Marvel is banished from the stage. Nearly a century later, Joseph Jervis runs away from school and seeks refuge with a reclusive uncle in London. Albert Nightingale's strange, beautiful house, with its mysterious portraits and ghostly presences, captivates Joseph and leads him on a search for clues about the house, his family, and the past. This book is told both in both beautiful pictures and striking words, where the two stories collide and connect in a way that makes it a powerful, memorable read.

  • ffthrowback

     

    I’m always a little surprised when I come across a book on the shelves in the Children’s Department that I completely loved as a child…especially some of the ones that I thought only I would still remember. Because let’s face it, it’s been a really long time since I was in elementary school, and I wasn’t always reading the classics. But it happens! And suddenly I can still recall whether it was a book I read with a flashlight under my blanket, or while swinging in the wicker egg chair that hung from my bedroom ceiling, or if it was read aloud by my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Brown, down in the great state of Texas. Here are a few of the stories that have stayed with me for over—(gulp)—35 years! Some you may recognize, and some you might not, but when reading a book creates an experience that you remember for decades (and decades)…well, I think that’s something worth talking about.

    mrspigglewiggleMRS. PIGGLE WIGGLE 
    By Betty MacDonald
    (1947)

    Mrs. Piggle Wiggle has a cure for everything! The Never-Want-to-Go-to-Bedders Cure, The Slow-Eater-Tiny-Bite-Taker Cure, and of course, The Radish Cure. She’s fun, quirky, and kind. She loves children and she smells like cookies. What more could you want? She’s the plump, eccentric woman I wished lived down the street from me as a kid…and to this day, she’s still popular enough to warrant a reboot series for yet another generation. Book 1 is hot off the presses with Book 2 due to arrive in 2017!

     

    girl with silver eyesTHE GIRL WITH THE SILVER EYES 
    By Willo Davis Roberts
    (1980)

    I’ll be honest, when I stumbled on this one in our collection I gasped. I adored this book as a kid. It was one of my super special—Apple paperback—Scholastic Book Fair finds. Katie was quiet, bookish, and felt like she was different. I’m sure it’s shocking that, as an 11-year-old girl, I completely identified with her. And who doesn’t dream of having special powers? I mean eventually we got Harry Potter, but back in the 80s, silver eyes and telekinesis were pretty darn intriguing.

     

    littleprincessA LITTLE PRINCESS
    By Frances Hodgson Burnett
    (1905)

    You know those days when you just want to read a book with all the feels? Well for my 10-year-old self, this was it. Another of my treasures from the school book fair (remember when those were actually affordable?), Sara Crewe’s riches-to-rags orphan tale captured my imagination and my heart. Through exotic glimpses of India, the atrocious boarding school headmistress Miss Minchin, the loss of Sara’s father, and the consistent manifestation of Sara’s noble and kind heart, Burnett weaved a heartwarming and enchanting story. While it never garnered quite the same recognition as THE SECRET GARDEN (which also has a recently-published continuation tale, this beloved book is what likely began my love for Victorian literature. Be sure to catch the delightful film version as well!

     

    scarletslippermysteryTHE SCARLET SLIPPER MYSTERY
    By Carolyn Keene
    (1954)

    Nancy Drew anyone? A consummate classic, and I definitely read far more than this single installment. While the specific plot points may not be seared in my memory, the Nancy Drew mysteries were and still are a fantastic, tame entry into the realm of mystery fiction for those looking for an innocent spine tingler. If the original Mystery series seems too dated for your taste, several recent spinoffs (with a more independent, cell-phone-carrying, hybrid-electric-car-driving Nancy) have been published, including The Nancy Drew Files, Girl Detective series, and Nancy Drew Diaries.

     

    intothedreamINTO THE DREAM
    By William Sleator
    (1979)

    This. Book. This was the book that my 5th grade teacher read aloud that was driving me crazy because I could not for the life of me remember the title. But I LOVED this book. I know you know how it is because you come to the reference desk and do the same thing— “Do you remember a book from the 80s about a boy and a girl that’s really, really good? It has something to do with a ferris wheel, a UFO, and ESP?” Yep, that was me. And let me tell you, when I finally figured out what it was, I literally did a happy dance in the Children’s Department. Unfortunately this title is not currently in our collection (hopefully it will be soon—we’re working on that), but it is available on Amazon, and you’d better believe that thanks to Prime, it’ll be on my doorstep the day after tomorrow!

     

  • Do you like fairytale retellings but are tired of the same old Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast storylines? There are lots of wonderful retellings inspired by lesser-known stories from Europe to the Middle East to Asia. 

    LesserKnownFairytales 01

    FIND THEM IN THE CATALOG: 

    SUN AND MOON, ICE AND SNOW

    TOADS AND DIAMONDS

    SHADOW SPINNER

  • It's a week full of dance and magic here at the Library; first, tonight we'll welcome Storyteller Wendy Gourley for a program called Story Dance, designed to help you explore story and movement (7:00 pm, Ballroom). Later in the week, of course, we'll transform the Library into a magical fairy world for our annual Fairy Tea. If that's not enough dance and magic for you, check out any of these three retellings of "Twelve Dancing Princesses." 

    12 Dancing Princesses 01

    Find them in the catalog: 

    PRINCESS OF THE MIDNIGHT BALL

    THE THIRTEENTH PRINCESS

    THE NIGHT DANCE

  • 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.

     
  • mock newbery 01

     

    For the first time this year the Children’s Department of the Provo City Library hosted a Mock Newbery. The announcement of the real Newbery Award Winner will be announced on Monday, January 23rd. But we decided we wanted to figure out what we would consider to be our top pick for the most distinguished writing for children ages 0-14 years old. We narrowed the list of potential candidates down to 15 titles (thanks to a rubric of how many starred reviews they got, if they were mentioned in other Mock Newbery blogs, and a book club vote). After a few hours of talking, here is what we came up with.

    2017 Mock Newbery Winner:

    girl who drank the moon

    THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON
    By Kelly Barnhill
    (2016)

    This is the story of a people who every year sacrifice their youngest child to a witch. Only the witch doesn’t really eat/kill the child like the people think. Instead she saves the children from death in a dangerous forest and takes them to other villages, feeding them with starlight and giving them to families who eagerly wait to raise the “Star Children” as their own. One year, the witch accidentally gives the child a bit of the moon to drink, which causes her to have magical abilities. Unable to resist raising the child as her own, the witch keeps the girl, a decision with far-reaching consequences. 

    This is a beautiful fantasy book. The writing is lyrical, and would be delightful to read out loud. We enjoyed the way that various perspectives and stories wove together to create one novel. We loved the characters and felt that even the minor characters were well developed. Barnhill’s world-building skills are top notch; we are intrigued by the world she created that at once feels entirely unique but also incredibly accessible. We also liked how fear became its own character that was a force to be reckoned with. There is mystery, there is danger, there is madness, and love, and courage of all kinds. All in all, this was a great book that we hope will also get some recognition on the 23rd.

    We also chose three honor books; all of these were someone’s favorite and were hotly debated as to whether they should be our winner. They are:

    inquisitors taleTHE INQUISITOR’S TALE: OR, THE THREE MAGICAL CHILDREN AND THEIR HOLY DOG
    By Adam Gidwitz, Illuminated by Hatem Aly
    (2016)

    This is a story of three children who are magical in their own right. The children are shunned by a medieval society and soon realize that as they go on their life’s journey that all is not quite what it seems.

    Our Mock Newbery committee liked how this story seemed different from anything that most of us have ever read before (it may be described as Canterbury Tales, Jr.). We enjoyed how the humor, history and storytelling were interwoven with ideas that are relevant to discuss today. And the moment when we realized just who the narrator was—that was a powerful moment! All in all, we hope this book gets some recognition next week as well.    

     

    maydayMAYDAY
    By Karen Harrington
    (2016)

    This is a story of Wayne, a kid who likes facts and struggles with family issues (obnoxious grandpa, divorced dad who doesn’t understand him, and an uncle who died in the war). We specifically liked Wayne as a character. We thought he was well written and a kid any of us would like to have come to our library so that we could meet him. We liked all the side characters. The grandpa and friends seemed as well developed as Wayne. And we liked the pacing and the story arc. This was another beautifully written middle grade novel that will get kids thinking about their words and what they would say if they could (or couldn’t). Again, this would be another great choice—in our opinion—for an award.    

     

    wolf hollowWOLF HOLLOW
    By Lauren Wolk
    (2016)

    This is the story of young Annabelle (who learned a lot the year she turned twelve). Annabelle lives in a relatively quiet world…until Betty comes to live in her area. Betty turns out to be quite a vicious bully. In fact, a lot of hard, sad things happen to people and the community as a result of Betty’s actions. Our Mock Newbery Committee agreed that this was a beautifully written story. It seemed like each word and sentence was chosen with care to make the most of this story. The characters are strong and create strong emotional reactions that seemed to haunt many of our committee. Also, this is a book with a lot to discuss. There were lots of questions and thoughts that came about because of this book. And bits of it stayed with many of us long after we had read the book. By far this book sparked the liveliest debate among the committee, with passionate readers arguing for and against it. In the end, our committee felt that this book deserves some recognition next week.        

     

    So there you have it. Our top four books for our Newbery pick. Now if only we can wait a few more days to find out just what the real Newbery Committee has chosen for their winners! What books would you choose for the Newbery this year? 

  • Percy

    What teen or pre-teen hasn’t read the PERCY JACKSON novels? They're fast paced and full of fun characters bursting with attitude and heart. Luckily, there is a lot to read about in the Percy Jackson world; 5 books in the first series, 5 in the second, and three so far in the TRIALS OF APOLLO spin off, not to mention THE KANE CHRONICLES and the adventures of MAGNUS CHASE.

    But like all good things, there is an end to the wonderful books of Rick Riordan. So if you or your child have read all of them, what do you read next? Here are my top five Rick Riordan read-alikes. 

    1.21 Lokis WolvesLOKI’S WOLVES
    By Kelley Armstrong
    (2013)

    Matt Thorsen is a direct descendant of the order-keeping god Thor, and his classmates Fen and Laurie Brekke are descendants of the trickster god Loki. When Ragnarok--the apocalypse--threatens, the human descendants of the gods must reconcile their differences and fight monsters to stop the end of the world. 

     

    1.21 Aru ShahARU SHAH AND THE END OF TIME
    By Roshani Chokshi
    (2018)

    Aru Shah's mother is the curator of a museum of Indian antiquities. She has always told Aru that the old lamp in one of the exhibit rooms is cursed, and if someone lit it a demon would appear. Aru doesn't believe her, of course, until one day when "friends" dare her to light the lamp. With her one bad choice, Aru is swept into a world of the Hindu gods, and discovers more about her family than she had ever imagined. 

     

    1.18 The Serpents SecretTHE SERPENT’S SECRET
    By Sayantani Dasgupta
    (2018)

    Up until her twelfth birthday, Kiranmala considered herself an ordinary sixth-grader in Parsippany, New Jersey, but then her parents disappear and a drooling rakkhosh demon shows up in her kitchen. Soon she is swept into another dimension full of magic, winged horses, talking birds (very annoying), and cute princes--and somehow Kiranmala needs to sort it all out, find her parents, and basically save the world. 

     

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

    Minli lives in a poor village suffering from a long standing drought. When she buys a magical goldfish, she is swept away on a quest with a dragon who cannot fly to find the Old Man of the Moon. Only he can tell her how to bring life to Fruitless Mountain and freshness to Jade River. 

     

    1.21 Mark of the ThiefMARK OF THE THIEF
    By Jennifer Nielson
    (2015)

    When Nic, a slave in the mines outside of Rome, is forced to enter a sealed cavern containing the lost treasures of Julius Caesar, he finds much more than gold and gemstones. He discovers an ancient bulla, an amulet that belonged to the great caesar, filled with a magic once reserved for the gods--magic some Romans would kill for. 

     
  • bsc fashion header 

    The 80s and 90s have been making a major comeback in fashion. Not so coincidentally, the same can be said for media and entertainment. With the new Babysitters Club TV show headed our way, and the resurgence of the book series with updated covers and in graphic novel form, the nostalgia for everybody’s favorite girl gang has been real. Each of the original five taught young girls so much about how to deal with everyday problems and how to be true to themselves—lessons which are still applicable today. They’re excellent role models, and each was unique in both style and personality.

    Below, I’ll give examples of how these five amazing babysitters might dress today, if one wanted to emulate their favorite babysitter.

    KristyKRISTY

    Kristy would take full advantage of the growing athleisure trend. Our fearless leader is all about true comfort, and not budging even an inch in the interest of fashion. Luckily for her, she can look put-together but still laidback in modern styles so as not to draw the critical eyes of her best friends, Stacey and Claudia.

    Kristy is far too athletic to care if everything matches perfectly, or fits quite right. She’d stick to neutrals to keep it simple, and she’s not into matching sets—that’s a little too cute for her. Starting with a simple pair of actual athletic leggings, in black, Kristy would wear a plain tee on top, but it would be a true basic with a simple fit. Functional tennis shoes in a fun color on bottom, and a denim jacket tied around her waist for when she’s out late playing games keep her ready to get active at any time. And of course, her signature baseball cap over her ponytail so she doesn’t have to do her hair.

     

    ClaudiaCLAUDIA

    Claudia will forever be that cool artsy girl whose style we didn’t dare copy, even though we all wished we could. She’s sophisticated, but not as sleek as her best friend Stacey. Her style tends more towards funky, stylish, trendy, and colorful. She’s known for little pieces that pull her look together, like a scarf that has all the colors of her outfit, or earrings that match a bracelet, or something else that gives her look, which might be a little crazy, a nice touch.

    Claudia would embrace every inch of the latest cool, trendy styles, but with her ever-present flair for vintage and thrifted goods. The current overalls obsession would entice her instantly. But she wouldn’t just wear the most basic of denim overalls. No, she’d find the ones with the funky print or the pinstripes. And of course, she wouldn’t wear them with anything neutral. She’d pick a brightly colored blouse with a menswear touch, via a necktie. The mules trend would work really well with her style, so she’d find a funky pair of velvet embroidered ones. To top off her look she’d match her earrings to her shoes and call it a good day.

     

    DawnDAWN

    Dawn has always been our laid-back California girl. While she exudes casual cool, she’s never been one to work too hard on her outfits. She likes it simple and comfy, but she’s far less into athletics than Kristy. If it’s too tight, or too girly, or too sporty, it won’t do. She likes to be able to run to the beach at any time, and not have to worry too much about her clothes.

    Dawn would be all over the boyfriend jeans trend. They’re loose and comfy, but she looks cool in them. Despite her rejection of trendy clothes, she likes looking cool. She’d pair her loose jeans with an equally loose shirt, preferably a relaxed button down in some color reminiscent of her pastel-studded childhood. On her feet would be some sort of sporty sandal in a fun color that she can look nice in on the boardwalk, but also won’t be ruined if she just can’t resist getting her feet wet. On both her wrist and in her long, blonde hair, we can assume she’d have a velvet scrunchie, as they’re the easiest and coolest way to remind us of the original BSC.

     

    StaceySTACEY

    Stacey has always been the more sophisticated companion to Claudia’s wild style. She wears a lot of black, she always looks put-together and a little older than her friends, and she is perfectly in style at all times. Stacey would never leave the house looking anything less than flawless.

    Starting with her signature color, black, Stacey would wear a sleek midi pencil skirt. On top, she’d wear a black slouchy turtleneck, which is a nice update to the turtlenecks of her childhood. She’d wear it in a half tuck so that she keeps the lines of her skirt, while maintaining her casually sophisticated style. For accessories she’d keep it simple with a simple gold pendant necklace with an S on it. On her feet, nude slides would keep with her sleek theme and will be comfy enough to keep up with her likely busy life.

     

    Mary AnneMARY ANNE

    Mary Anne is our resident sweetheart. She’s kind and loving, and very responsible. And it shows in her clothing. Mary Anne would love touches of the twee styles that have become mainstream in the last few years, although she’ll never be truly converted. She’s far too sensible to lean too far into fashion. She might be convinced to wear a sweet Peter Pan collar dress or shirt, but she’ll always return to the fashion basics that keep her looking preppy, girly, and professional.

    Mary Anne would rock a simple sweater in a neutral color with a collar underneath. The simplicity of it keeps her looking grounded and not too fashionable, but looks nice and classic with the addition of a collar. Mary Anne loves a good pair of basic, dark wash jeans, with zero holes, and a sleek cut. A pair of classic brown ankle boots round out her look and provide her with a pop of color and the ability to jet around and get things done. And of course, she must wear a watch.

     

    The BSC helped inspire young girls to make their mark on the world. And we love them so much, we still want to be like them today. If you choose to dress like your favorite babysitter, don’t forget to emulate her best qualities too!

  • Beach Reads

    For me, one of the best things about living in Utah is appreciating a dramatic change in seasons. I love bundling up to see the Midway Ice Castles in Winter and cooling off at the Provo Rec Center poolside with a Diet Coke in the summer. The downside of seasons, though, is that even though I mostly love the winter – it’s cold, it’s snowing, and my cabin fever is bad enough that I might be willing to sell my most prized books in exchange for a 90 degree day at the pool. 

    What I’m trying to say here is – I wore a cardigan over a sweater to work today and I am dreaming of summer vacation. Here are some choices for beach reads to help us all escape the snow if only in our dreams

    For Middle Grade Readers 

    3.18 Secret Sisters of the Salty SeaSECRET SISTERS OF THE SALTY SEA
    By Lynne Rae Perkins
    (2018)

    For the first time in their life, Alix and her sister Jools are going on a real-life vacation. One where they aren’t just going to visit cousins and stay with family – and they even get to go to the real ocean for the first time. This is an episodic novel that focuses on the extraordinary ordinary things that happen over a summer vacation and the sights, sounds, smells and feelings of the beach are perfectly described in this quick read. 

     

    For Young Adults 

    3.18 The Summer I Turned PrettyTHE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY
    By Jenny Han
    (2009) 

    ***A quick round of applause for the master of YA Romance Ms. Jenny Han.***

    Fans of TO ALL THE BOYS I LOVED BEFORE will love this summer-centric trilogy about Belly and the boys she loves at the beach – Jeremiah and Conrad. If you take the time to look up “YA Beach Reads” this book will often show up on the list because it is so synonymous with summer. Each book in this series focuses on summers at the beach house owned by Belly’s mother’s best friend Susannah because as Belly reminds us – everything important happens from June to August. This book has some emotional depth (divorce, parents with cancer, etc.) but it is filled with the kind of warm, poignant writing that makes a beach read satisfying. 

     

    For Fans of Light and Fluffy 

    3.18 My Not So Perfect LifeMY (NOT SO) PERFECT LIFE: A NOVEL
    By Sophie Kinsella
    (2017) 

    Listen, Sophie Kinsella is the Queen of Chick-Literature and whenever I want a nice romantic-comedy to make me think of warmer times she is the first lady I turn to. This book is the story of Katie Brenner who quickly learns that a “perfect” life might not actually exist after she is fired from her London advertising job and forced to return to her family farm – where her parents are attempting to create a luxury “glampground.” Then of course Katie’s former boss Demeter shows up at the family farm causing Katie’s two worlds to crash and collide with hilarious results. It we want to get technical, this book is more of a spring-farm than summer-beach read, but I’ll allow it. 

     

    For Fans of the Dark Side 

    3.18 First We Were IVFIRST WE WERE IV
    By Alexandra Siroway
    (2017)

    Sometimes you just want to read a dark, pulpy, page-turning thriller and this is the book for you. Four best friends form a secret society to call out misbehaving adults in their small sea-side community and solidify their bond as a group. The group of four soon learn that the road to hell is paved with good intentions and something good can easily turn catastrophic. This is a jet-black mystery thriller with an ocean setting that makes for a perfect dark beach read. 

     

    For Celebrity-stalkers 

    3.18 This Will Only Hurt A LittleTHIS WILL ONLY HURT A LITTLE
    By Busy Philipps
    (2018)

    As is my advice with all celebrity memoirs, I probably wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone who isn’t at least a casual fan of Busy Philipps. But if you are a fan of Busy – from DAWSON’S CREEK, FREAKS AND GEEKS, or her remarkably relatable Instagram – her autobiography is filled with the best (and at times worst) of Busy. She is well-known to her internet fans for her impressive candor and this book is lacking none of that – she shares her personal experiences with betrayal, body shaming, and bullying in a voice that is totally and undeniably her own.  

     
  • overheard 01

    Librarians tend to notice if someone proclaims their love for a book. Despite our best intentions, we can’t read everything on our shelves, so we pick up clues about books other people like in order to flush out our recommendations to patrons. I probably wouldn’t have picked up THE HERO’S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM by Christopher Healy, if my little brother hadn’t belly laughed every time he sat down to read it—now it’s on my favorites list. Here are a couple of inadvertent recommendations I’ve gotten recently:

    Fires of InventionTHE FIRES OF INVENTION
    by Scott Savage
    (2015)

    While stuck on a houseboat during a rainstorm on Lake Powell, I watched as one of my brothers finished THE FIRES OF INVENTION. As he shut the book he proclaimed, “That was awesome!” Then he promptly flipped the book over and started reading it again. I figured that was a pretty good sign, so now I recommend the book to all sorts of patrons, especially 11-yr-old boys who are dying for something with a dragon in it. I actually haven’t read it yet because this steam-punk fantasy is never checked in.

     

    The Sisters GrimmTHE SISTERS GRIMM
    by Michael Buckley
    (2005)

    If I get asked to find the same thing multiple times, I get really curious about it. The Sisters Grimm is one of a dozen or so series I’ve looked into because I keep pulling it off the shelves for patrons. I recently checked out book one, THE FAIRY-TALE DETECTIVES, and I really enjoyed it. This modern fairy-tale spin-off is very reminiscent of the TV shows Once Upon a Time and Grimm, just a little more kid friendly. I’ll admit I now have to finish the entire series because I need to know what happens to Sabrina and Daphne. 

     

    Genuine SweetGENUINE SWEET
    by Faith Harkey
    (2015)

    I have a little sister who isn’t too fond of reading, so I perked up when I overheard her telling our mom about a book that she loved so much it made her cry. Intrigued, I asked if I could borrow it. GENUINE SWEET isn’t the best written piece of literature I’ve ever picked up, but what it lacks in powerful prose it makes up for in, dare I say, sweetness. It’s nice to pick up such a genuinely tender tale of hope and forgiveness—with a little bit of magic thrown in. 

     

     

    Echo   Blog SizeECHO
    by Pam Muñoz Ryan
    (2015)

    One day, while at the reference desk, I eavesdropped on a fellow librarian’s conversation with a patron. He was explaining that while ECHO was a great read, it had blown him away as an audiobook. As a lover of audiobooks, I was hooked—especially after I found out that it was essentially historical fiction (with a touch of fantasy), spanning the decades from the beginnings of the Nazi party in Germany through the Japanese internment in the US. After listening to the amazing (and musical) performance, I was every bit as impressed as my coworker had been. 

     

    So, what great books have you found by eavesdropping?

     

     

  • Witchy Reads

    My fascination with all things witchy dates back to September 27th, 1996 - more than 20 years! Any guesses what inspired it?

    Ever since then, I've loved the idea of witchcraft, though not in a serious way. There's just something appealing about potions, spells, animal familiars, and covens of powerful women. Thanks to this fascination, fiction books with witchy protagonists inevitably catch my eye. In honor of the season, I thought I'd share a few exciting titles that feature wonderful witches.

    10.12 The Witches of New YorkTHE WITCHES OF NEW YORK
    By Ami McKay
    (2017)

    After reading several starred reviews of Ami McKay's new book, I knew I had to read it. It did not disappoint. THE WITCHES OF NEW YORK tells the story of Adelaide and Eleanor, two magical women who run Tea and Sympathy, a shop that offers tarot readings and herbal remedies in addition to tea and biscuits. When a naive young woman named Beatrice joins them as an assistant, mundane and magical forces combine to endanger the shop and the women who run it. A warning for cautious readers that this novel does include occasional sex and violence.

     

    10.12 The Girl Who Drank the MoonTHE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON
    By Kelly Barnhill
    (2016)

    This Newbery winner is an absolute delight. In this children's novel, the people of the Protectorate abandon a baby in sacrifice to the witch who lives outside their village. Little do they know that Xan is a kindly witch who is baffled by their offerings. Each year she takes the babies to a loving family across the forest, until one night she accidentally enmagics one of her charges. She then raises Luna alongside a swamp monster and a perfectly lovable, perfectly tiny dragon.

    THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON tells a lovely story and features the most charming and playful writing I've encountered aside from J.K. Rowling's. Even better, the audiobook reader gives what may just be my favorite narration of all time.

    10.12 The Black WitchTHE BLACK WITCH
    By Laurie Forest
    (2017)

    I've written about my love for this book before, but I had to include it again here. In THE BLACK WITCH, teenager Elloren Gardner leaves her small village to attend an international boarding school. She's the daughter of the Black Witch, Gardneria's rescuer and one of the most powerful mages of all time. When Elloren arrives at school, however, she discovers that the history she's been taught may not be accurate, and that the prejudices she's been raised with are undeserved and even cruel. THE BLACK WITCH deals with difficult topics in a complex but relatable way and in my opinion deserves every starred review it received.

     

    10.12 The Rules of MagicTHE RULES OF MAGIC
    By Alice Hoffman
    (2017)

    Full disclosure here: I haven't actually read this yet. After all, it only came out two days ago! Fans of Hoffman's 1995 book PRACTICAL MAGIC will be thrilled to know that she has returned to the story of the Owens family. For the members of this magical clan, love is a curse that inevitably results in death and heartache. THE RULES OF MAGIC follows an earlier generation of Owens siblings - Franny, Jet, and Vincent - as they navigate the heady days of the 1960s. I've read a few of Hoffman's other works, and her three-dimensional characters, detailed plots, and lush, lyrical writing never disappoint. And based on early reviews, this prequel is every bit as magical as its predecessor.

    Bonus: If you can't get enough fictional witchcraft, check out basically anything by Sarah Addison Allen. Within the pages of her sweet books, you're sure to find romance and magic in a small southern town.