Friday, January 11, 2013

A Year in Review: 2012 Middle Grade Novels

     As a member of the Maine Student Book Award Committee, I dedicate my reading each year to current publications geared towards our focused grade spans of 4th through 8th.   Information on what the Maine Student Book Award is can be found on our webpage. I thought it would be fun to reflect on my favorite picks of the year so far.  


     What an amazing year of literature for the middle grade reader!  What follows are some of my standout favorites of 2012.  The following books fall heavily in the category of grades 4-8, though I do deviate from this at times.  This could take a while...

In no particular order:

Favorite Realistic Fiction Selections:

Riding out the Storm by Sis Deans
Henry Holt, 165 pages
Realistic Fiction
Recommended for grades 8+
Why I love it:  An honest look at mental illness and how it can effect the lives of family members.  (Kirkus Review)

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Knopf Books, 320 pages
Realistic Fiction
Recommended for grades 4+
Why I love it: It reminds us all to be thankful for what we have, and to be mindful of the challenges each other faces.  And because Auggie has the power to make us laugh out loud, and also hang our heads to shed silent tears.

Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypaker
Balzer+Bray, 275 pages
Realistic Fiction
Recommended for grades 4-7
Why I love it:  Sara Pennypacker has brought the darling Clementine into our literary lives, but she is so much more than a single series author.  Foster girls coping with tragedy and how to heal.

Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead
Wendy Lamb Books, 192 pages
Realistic Fiction
Recommended for grades 5-8
Why I love it: Dialogue is so spot on.  And the volleyball gym scene was pretty much 100% me in high school.  I was moved to big fat tears, Stead certainly reached my heart.


Favorite Sci-Fi Selections:

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Feiwel & Friends, 390 pages
Science Fiction
Recommended for grades 6+
Why I love it: Sure, I suspected who Cinder was early on, but because I still was riveted to the unfolding of the story, it proves that there is something special here!  A cyborg Cinderella story, the beginning of the Lunar Chronicles.

What Came from the Stars by Gary Schmidt
Clarion Books, 304 pages
Science Fiction
Recommended for grades 5-8
Why I love it: Because Schmidt is a master writer, and the alien stalking Tommy Pepper in this story is hauntingly creepy.


My favorite Hoax Selection:

The Fairy Ring: Or Elsie and Frances Fool the World  (a true story) by Mary Losure
Candlewick Press, 184 pages
Nonfiction
Recommended for grades 4-8
Why I love it: The story of how two girls fooled the world into believing their photographs were actual images of fairies was an unknown story to me.  I was fascinated by the unfolding of events, and also fascinated by the people involved.

Favorite Wordless Picture Book:

Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole
Scholastic, 40 pages
Historical Fiction
Recommended for grades 3+
Why I love it: This book shows the power behind a wordless picture book.  When a young girl comes face to face with a runaway slave in her shed she must make a big decision.  Clever title, stunning artwork, powerful message.

Favorite Fantasy Selections:

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Harper, 305 pages
Fantasy
Recommended for grades 3-6
Why I love it: This fantasy is inspired by the real Ivan, a captive Silverback gorilla.  I love it most of all because my third grade students are coming out with the most beautiful and moving reflections and thinkings as we read this story aloud together.  

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic Press, 416 pages
Fantasy
Recommended for grades 8+
Why I love it:  Because it is simply magnificent.


Favorite Nonfiction Selections:

Zombie Makers: True Stories of Nature's Undead by Rebecca L. Johnson
Millbrook Press, 48 pages
Nonfiction
Recommended for grades 4+
Why I love it: Total gross out awesomeness inside these pages!  Amazing looks at how parasites control their hosts to do their bidding.

Giant Squid by Mary Cerullo and Clyde F.E. Roper
Capstone Press, 48 pages
Nonfiction
Recommended for grades 3-6
Why I love it: Format of the book combines factual information, photographs, drawings, stories and folklore into a rather captivating read about squid.  Plus the cover feels cool.

The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins
Houghton Mifflin, 40 pages
Nonfiction
Recommended for grades 2-5
Why I love it: The handwritten font style and drawn illustrations give this book a unique feel.  Kids are drawn to the life size images.


Favorite Poetry Collections:

Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems by Kate Coombs, illustrated by Meilo So
Chronicle Books, 32 pages
Poetry
Recommended for grades 3-6
Why I love it:  Beautiful  artwork sets the mood for these ocean poems that are as varied in content as they are in style.  Humor on one page and thoughtful contemplation awaits you on the next. 

National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry edited by J. Patrick Lewis
National Geographic, 185 pages
Poetry
Recommended for grades 3-8
Why I love it: Beloved poets familiar to children and adults alike have been given vibrant photographs as backdrops to their words.

Favorite Adventure Selection:

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Scholastic, 342 pages
Adventure
Recommended for grades 5-8
Why I love it: Main character Sage is a witty smart-mouth that is immediately endearing.  Manipulation, danger, crowns and lies hook readers from early on.

Favorite Poetic Narrative Selection:

Little Dog Lost by Marion Dane Bauer
Atheneum Books, 198 pages
Realistic Fiction
Recommended for grades 3-6
Why I love it: Chock full of emotions.  Pain of separation, extreme longing, loneliness, hope and love.    Such sweet writing.

Favorite Spooky Selections:

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz
Candlewick, 400 pages
Fantasy
Recommended to grades 6+
Why I love it: 1800s, creepy, sad and mysterious.  

ParaNorman by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
Little, Brown Books, 256 pages
Fantasy
Recommended for grades 3-6
Why I love it:  Because I was taken by surprise at how funny and smart this story is.

Ghost of Graylock by Dan Poblocki
Scholastic, 272 pages
Fantasy
Recommended for grades 5-8
Why I love it: Because it is actually quite spooky.  Especially when your house is over 100 years old...

The Diviners by Libba Bray
Little, Brown Books, 598 pages
Fantasy
Recommended for grades 9+
Why I love it: The 1920s period comes to life in this fantasy thriller.  Hands down the book that held me the strongest all year long.  


Favorite Graphic Novel Selections:

Cardboard by Doug TenNapel
Scholastic, 283 pages
Fantasy
Recommended for grades 4-6
Why I love it: Wonderful friendship story disguised as an awesome and crazy monster filled fantasy.  Antagonist Marcus is supremely drawn...perfection!

XOC: The Journey of a Great White by Matt Dembicki
Oni Press, 120 pages
Fantasy
Recommended for grades 4-8
Why I love it: Eye catching illustrations lead us on the journey of a migrating great white and a sea turtle.  Filled with facts throughout.

Giants Beware! by Jorge Aguirre & Rafael Rosado
First Second Books, 204 pages
Fantasy
Recommended for grades 3-5
Why I love it: A headstrong, courageous female lead, a princess wannabe that is anything but fragile and a son of a sword smith that relishes in the art of cooking accompany each other on a journey that leads to much more than the discovery of the giant.

Favorite Historical Fiction Selections:

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine
Putnam, 304 pages
Historical Fiction
Recommended for grades 5-8
Why I love it: Set in 1958, a year after the news of the Little Rock Nine, we learn what was happening in Little Rock schools.  And are sadly surprised.

The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats
Harcourt Children's, 352 pages
Historical Fiction
Recommended for grades 8+
Why I love it: It gave me an opportunity to learn about the horrors of occupied Wales in the 1290s through opposing viewpoints.





***Last year I was fortunate enough to be able to present the MSBA to our winning author, Raina Telgemeier for her book Smile. ***

Who will win this year? 
Maine teachers and librarians and of course Students!! should head to our webpage for all the details on how and when to vote:
This spring Maine students throughout our great state will vote on their favorite 2011 publication on our current list.


6 comments:

  1. Great list! Obviously Wonder and Ivan are probably givens. I also enjoyed Cardboard, Liar and Spy and Unspoken. Really need to read Raven Boys and The False Prince. I've heard such great things about them.

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  2. Hi Gigi, Thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts!
    I listened to The Raven Boys on audio, and it was one of the absolute best readings I've ever listened to. I don't know what you've got for a commute, but I highly recommend listening to that one. What other 2012s did you love? This is such an exciting time of year, but also stressful...don't want to miss an outstanding title before our deadline!

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  3. You have many of my favourite titles of the year here too The Diviners I just finished. Loved The Wicked and the Just, Lions of Littlerock, Liar and Spy, and The Raven Boys (wow!) I couldn't finish What came from the Stars and felt terrible about it as I LOVE Schmidt. Maybe at another time it will feel right. My whole family loved The False Prince We listened to it on audio. Happy Reading for 2013!

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    1. Carrie!! I love your book taste, and not just because we often are right on par with each other ;) I admit that I struggled with the beginning of What Came From the Stars, as things were so muddled and confusing on the other planet. But once things heated up and Tommy was being hunted for what he had, I loved it. Thanks for stopping by!!
      p.s. My copy of Ape just shipped yesterday, I can't wait to get it!

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  4. The Ghost of Greylock was really good. The sequel to Cinder comes out in February, I think. So many things to recommend those!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts! I thought Greylock was written as any good ghost story should be...creepy. Some images from the book still haunt me from time to time, which means it has lasting impact. But I feel like a classic scary story never gets much credit or respect!

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