Booklist: Our Favorite Middle Grade Reads of 2012

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There have been some incredible books published this year so far in the Middle Grade reading area. Here’s a list of our favorites to get you started and, as always, keep your eyes open as you can bet that we’ll be jumping into the pages of several of these very soon!

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Until now, 10 year old August Pullman, Auggie for short, has been home-schooled. Entering a private middle school on the Upper East Side, he wonders if anyone will accept him as “normal” with his disfigured face which he has had since birth. Everyone at school is encouraged to “be kind” to Auggie but can they?  As this heartfelt story unfolds, we learn that everyone carries some type of disfigurement or deformity. Auggie learns how the power of kindness opens his world.Wonder by R. J. Palacio

This is a fantastic book to hand to members of a class with special needs students, as well as an incredible way to teach our children the attributes of kindness and compassion.

Son by Lois Lowry

In this thrilling series finale, Lois Lowry brings a conclusion to her epic saga of The Giver, Gathering Blue, and Messenger and the battle between good and evil.Son by Lois Lowry

When Claire washed up on their shore, no one knew that she came from a society where emotions and colors didn’t exist. That she had become a Vessel at age thirteen. That she had carried a Product at age fourteen. That it had been stolen from her body. Claire had a son. But what became of him she never knew. What was his name? Was he even alive? She was supposed to forget him, but that was impossible. Now Claire will stop at nothing to find her child, even if it means making an unimaginable sacrifice.

This book has a special place in my heart as I actually got to meet Lois Lowry during it’s release. I feel this book is suited for ages 10 on up depending on the maturity of your child. It’s well written and you will not be disappointed.

 Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin

The moon is missing from the remote Village of Clear Sky, but only a young boy named Rendi seems to notice! Rendi has run away from home and is now working as a chore boy at the village inn. He can’t help but notice the village’s peculiar inhabitants and their problems-where has the innkeeper’s son gone? Why are Master Chao and Widow Yan always arguing? What is the crying sound Rendi keeps hearing? And how can crazy, old Mr. Shan not know if his pet is a toad or a rabbit?Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin
But one day, a mysterious lady arrives at the Inn with the gift of storytelling, and slowly transforms the villagers and Rendi himself. As she tells more stories and the days pass in the Village of Clear Sky, Rendi begins to realize that perhaps it is his own story that holds the answers to all those questions.
Newbery Honor author Grace Lin brings readers another enthralling fantasy featuring her marvelous full-color illustrations. Starry River of the Sky is filled with Chinese folklore, fascinating characters, and exciting new adventures.

Shadow on the Mountain by Margi Preus

Shadow on the Mountain recounts the adventures of a 14-year-old Norwegian boy named Espen during World War II. After Nazi Germany invades and occupies Norway, Espen and his friends are swept up in the Norwegian resistance movement. Espen gets his start by delivering illegal newspapers, then graduates to the role of courier and finally becomes a spy, dodging the Gestapo along the way. During five years under the Nazi regime, he gains—and loses—friends, falls in love, and makes one small mistake that threatens to catch up with him as he sets out to escape on skis over the mountains to Sweden.Shadow on the Mountain
Preus incorporates archival photographs, maps, and other images to tell this story based on the real-life adventures of Norwegian Erling Storrusten, whom Preus interviewed in Norway.

Same Sun Here by Silas House and Neela Vaswani

Meena and River have a lot in common: fathers forced to work away from home to make ends meet, grandmothers who mean the world to them, and faithful dogs. But Meena is an Indian immigrant girl living in New York City’s Chinatown, while River is a Kentucky coal miner’s son. The unlikely pair become pen pals, sharing thoughts on their lives and, as their friendship deepens, on larger issues such as activism, immigration, racism, and prejudice. Meena s family studies for citizenship exams, faces harassment by a landlord, and experiences the death of Meena s grandmother in India, while River s town faces devastating mountaintop removal, propelling him into a protest march and confrontation with the governor. Same Sun As Here by Silas House

This glimpse into the lives of two very different youths who find common ground in their everyday lives makes bold statements about cultural misconceptions, the power and powerlessness of the individual and community, and the great value of being and having a friend.

The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech

I had big thoughts to match the big wind. I wondered if we find the people we need when we need them. I wondered if we attract our future by some sort of invisible force, or if we are drawn to it by a similar force. I felt I was turning a corner and that change was afoot.

In the little town of Blackbird Tree live two orphan girls: one Naomi Deane, brimming with curiosity, and her best friend, Lizzie Scatterding, who could talk the ears off a cornfield. Naomi has a knack for being around when trouble happens. For she knows all the peculiar people in town—like Crazy Cora and Witch Wiggins and Mr. Farley. But then, one day, a boy drops out of a tree. The strangely charming Finn boy. Then the Dingle Dangle man appears, asking all kinds of questions. Curious surprises are revealed—three locked trunks, a pair of rooks, a crooked bridge, and that boy. Soon Naomi and Lizzie find themselves zooming toward a future neither could ever have imagined. Meanwhile, on a grand estate across the ocean, an old lady whose heart has been deceived concocts a plan. . . .

The Great Unexpected

As two very different worlds are woven together, Newbery Medal winner Sharon Creech celebrates the gossamer thread that connects us all, and the great and unexpected gifts of love, friendship, and forgiveness.

Three Times Lucky By Sheila Turnage

Rising sixth grader Miss Moses LoBeau lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC, where everyone’s business is fair game and no secret is sacred. She washed ashore in a hurricane eleven years ago, and she’s been making waves ever since. Although Mo hopes someday to find her “upstream mother,” she’s found a home with the Colonel–a café owner with a forgotten past of his own–and Miss Lana, the fabulous café hostess. She will protect those she loves with every bit of her strong will and tough attitude. So when a lawman comes to town asking about a murder, Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, set out to uncover the truth in hopes of saving the only family Mo has ever known.Full of wisdom, humor, and grit, this timeless yarn will melt the heart of even the sternest Yankee.Three Times Lucky

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Ivan is an easy-going gorilla who lives at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. He has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.The One and Only Ivan

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

May B. by Caroline Starr Rose

I’ve known it since last night:
It’s been too long to expect them to return.
Something’s happened.

If May is a brave, stubborn fighter, the short, free-verse lines are one-two punches in this Laura Ingalls Wilder-inspired ode to the human spirit,” raved Kirkus Reviews in a starred review.

May is helping out on a neighbor’s Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. She wants to contribute, but it’s hard to be separated from her family by 15 long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned. Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to survive, May’s memories of her struggles with reading at school come back to haunt her. But she’s determined to find her way home again. Caroline Starr Rose’s fast-paced novel, written in beautiful and riveting verse, gives readers a strong new heroine to love.

May B.

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz

The master puppeteer, Gaspare Grisini, is so expert at manipulating his stringed puppets that they appear alive. Clara Wintermute, the only child of a wealthy doctor, is spellbound by Grisini’s act and invites him to entertain at her birthday party. Seeing his chance to make a fortune, Grisini accepts and makes a splendidly gaudy entrance with caravan, puppets, and his two orphaned assistants.
Lizzie Rose and Parsefall are dazzled by the Wintermute home. Clara seems to have everything they lack — adoring parents, warmth, and plenty to eat.  But in reality, Clara’s life is shadowed by grief, guilt, and secrets. When Clara vanishes that night, suspicion of kidnapping falls upon the puppeteer and, by association, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall.Splendors and Glooms
As they seek to puzzle out Clara’s whereabouts, Lizzie and Parse uncover Grisini’s criminal past and wake up to his evil intentions. Fleeing London, they find themselves caught in a trap set by Grisini’s ancient rival, a witch with a deadly inheritance to shed before it’s too late.
Newbery Medal winner Laura Amy Schlitz’s Victorian gothic is a rich banquet of dark comedy, scorching magic, and the brilliant and bewitching storytelling that is her trademark.

Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 by Phillip Hoose

B95 can feel it: a stirring in his bones and feathers. It’s time. Today is the day he will once again cast himself into the air, spiral upward into the clouds, and bank into the wind.

He wears a black band on his lower right leg and an orange flag on his upper left, bearing the laser inscription B95. Scientists call him the Moonbird because, in the course of his astoundingly long lifetime, this gritty, four-ounce marathoner has flown the distance to the moon—and halfway back!

B95 is a robin-sized shorebird, a red knot of the subspecies rufa. Each February he joins a flock that lifts off from Tierra del Fuego, headed for breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic, nine thousand miles away.  Late in the summer, he begins the return journey.

B95 can fly for days without eating or sleeping, but eventually he must descend to refuel and rest. However, recent changes at ancient refueling stations along his migratory circuit—changes caused mostly by human activity—have reduced the food available and made it harder for the birds to reach. And so, since 1995, when B95 was first captured and banded, the worldwide rufa population has collapsed by nearly 80 percent. Most perish somewhere along the great hemispheric circuit, but the Moonbird wings on. He has been seen as recently as November 2011, which makes him nearly twenty years old. Shaking their heads, scientists ask themselves: How can this one bird make it year after year when so many others fall?Moonbird

National Book Award–winning author Phillip Hoose takes us around the hemisphere with the world’s most celebrated shorebird, showing the obstacles rufa red knots face, introducing a worldwide team of scientists and conservationists trying to save them, and offering insights about what we can do to help shorebirds before it’s too late. With inspiring prose, thorough research, and stirring images, Hoose explores the tragedy of extinction through the triumph of a single bird.

Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead

The instant New York Times bestseller from the author of the Newbery Medal book When You Reach Me: a story about spies, games, and friendship. Seventh grader Georges moves into a Brooklyn apartment building and meets Safer, a twelve-year-old self-appointed spy. Georges becomes Safer’s first spy recruit. His assignment? Tracking the mysterious Mr. X, who lives in the apartment upstairs. But as Safer becomes more demanding, Georges starts to wonder: what is a lie, and what is a game? How far is too far to go for your only friend? Like the dazzling When You Reach MeLiar & Spy will keep readers guessing until the end.Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

The Unfortunate Son by Constance Leeds

Kidnapping, family secrets, and adventure on the high seas–perfect for middle grade fans of historical fiction! What does it mean to be lucky? Luc doesn’t really know. He was born with just one ear, his father constantly berates him, and his younger brother is already bigger and stronger than he is. But when he is chosen to become an apprentice to a local fisherman, his life takes a turn for the better. Luc is a natural at sea, and before long he and a teenaged girl who lives with the fisherman form a strong bond. That bond is tested when Luc is taken captive by a band of merciless pirates, and sold into slavery.Moving from 1485 to 1500, from France to Africa, from humble beginnings to a noble future, this historical fiction adventure will leave readers pondering the true meaning of good fortune.The Unfortunate Son

Haunted Histories: Creepy Castles, Dark Dungeons, and Powerful Palaces: by J.H. Everett and Marilyn Scott Waters

Guided by tween “ghostorian” Virgil, readers will discover fascinating facts about calamitous events throughout history as they explore castles, palaces and dungeons and those infamous figures associated with each.  For instance, did you know that many castles were made out of wood painted to look like stone? Or that wealthy prisoners in the Tower of London could keep servants? The book is chock-full of details that kids will find intriguing–dungeon life for prisoners, methods of turture, and even the most popular methods of poisoning enemies. So join Virgil and the other ghostly inhabitants for an historical adventure on the dark side.Haunted Histories

Horten’s Incredible Illusions: Magic, Mystery & Another Very Strange Adventure by Lissa Evans

This magical follow-up to Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms continues Stuart’s amazing adventures–with more enchantment, more surprises, and more thrills. When we last left 10-year-old Stuart, he had just recovered his great-uncle Tony’s long-lost magic workshop. Now all the priceless tricks are on display in the Beeton Museum–and Stuart is junior curator of the exhibit! But another mystery awaits Stuart: Where did the great magician hide his will? Only by entering the magic world of the workshop can he find the answer.

But as the mechanisms whisk him off on increasingly incredible adventures, the puzzles become harder and harder to solve…and the stakes higher. With even more page-turning action, this second book in the exciting middle-grade series does a magic trick of its own: it’s even better than the first!

What are your favorite Middle Grade reader books? Please share!

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Comments

  1. Thank you for this list. I’ve only read one of these so far (Wonder), but I’ve purchased four on this list and would like to read the others, too.
    My non-fiction loving nine-year-old would love Haunted Histories. Thanks for the heads up on that one.

    • Hi Megan,
      Thanks so much for your visit. We love every book on this list. Haunted Histories has been read many times in our house. The illustrator Marilyn Scott Waters is a dear friend of mine. You and your family might her site called The Toymaker. She has wonderfully illustrated paper toys which you can download and make. http://www.toymaker.com .

      • My kids will jump all over that! Thanks for that great info! And thanks so much for visiting my blog; it’s much appreciated.

        • Oh that’s fantastic. Your blog is now in my reader. That’s the fun of living in the kids book world, all the wonderful people you meet along the way. So glad we’ve connected.

  2. I’m surprised Storybound by Marissa Burt is not on your list. The main character “Jumps Into a Book” or as the author refers to it, is written in. :)

    • Hi Janelle,
      We love Storybound !!!! The sequel has come out in 2012, during the summer I think, but I haven’t gotten to it yet. So little time and too many books to read. :) Thanks for the recommendation. It’s a fantastic read.

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