Thursday, July 1, 2010

LET'S TALK MIDDLE GRADE

Last night I reread Sharon Creech's LOVE THAT DOG and HATE THAT CAT to ground me in great MG writing.

Middle Grade is a toughie.

Many of us remember what it is like to be a teen. Heck, sometimes I think I still am one (wishful thinking, I know). But middle grade is a time when we are just forming our personalities. We are still part of the clump of elementary school but recognizing that we are individuals. Although we are herded from one subject/activity/etc to the next with the group, we are becoming aware of our tastes, abilities, opinions; often too young to rage against the machine.

We hit middle school and for some the raging may begin, but the need to be part of the group often has equal importance. So we rage against our parents and seek popularity amongst our peers. We don't all gravitate to the same groups but our need for friends and our conflicted feelings towards growing up and still needing the security of family begins our tailspin into teenage angst.

I read so darn much it is hard to remember what books I've read if someone asks---hey, what are the best middle grade books---but I will try to list some of my favorites and please list yours in the comments so I can discover new treasures. Regarding classics, yes they are fantastic and I don't know a child who goes through elementary school without reading THE GIVER or HATCHET, but what are some of the newer middle grades that are must reads?

Here are some of mine (some new, some older):

Rita Williams-Garcia's ONE CRAZY SUMMER
Ralph Fletcher's FIG PUDDING and FLYING SOLO
Sharon Creech's LOVE THAT DOG and HAT THAT CAT
Lauren Tarshis' EMMA-JEAN LAZARUS FELL OUT OF A TREE
Rebecca Stead's WHEN YOU REACH ME
Andrew Clement's FRINDLE
Lisa Yee's MILLICENT MIN, GIRL GENIUS and BOBBY VS. GIRLS (ACCIDENTALLY)

Art by the wonderful Mike Lester

30 comments:

  1. I love Derek Landy's SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT series ferociously. So funny, and such great interplay between 12-year-old Stephanie and her much-older skeleton detective friend.

    Going back in time a bit, I adored Lloyd Alexander's Black Cauldron books. And Carlos the Chooch, more recently, was good.

    Cornelia Funke's INKHEART books are terrific--I greatly prefer these to her others, but that might be the adult in me. They're a lot denser than IGRAINE THE BRAVE and DRAGON RIDER.

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  2. I love MG fantasy, like Sarah Prineas' THE MAGIC THIEF, and Angie Sage's Septimus Heap series (beginning with MAGYK). Joseph Delaney's THE LAST APPRENTICE series is creepy and dark, and a lot of fun if you like scary witches and ghosts.

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  3. Kristen KittscherJuly 1, 2010 at 9:40 AM

    It's hard not be charmed by Kirsten Miller's Kiki Strike books (Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City) -- clever, smart, funny girls who navigate New York and bring down villains as easily as they negotiate their school's social scene. My students are big fans.

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  4. I'm also a fan of MG fantasy. I love Michelle Paver's Chronicles of Darkness series, and on the lighter side, Fortune's Folly by Deva Fegan was a lot of fun. Recent non-fantasy favorites include The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and Paris Pan.

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  5. Anything by Wendy Mass, particularly JEREMY FINK AND THE MEANING OF LIFE and A MANGO SHAPED SPACE. Also the wonderful Joey Pigza series by Jack Gantos. And yes, Sharon Creech is always a favorite. I've got so many, but these are the first that pop to mind. I can tell I'll be adding to my book list after reading the other favorites in comments here.

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  6. I also second the vote for anything by Wendy Mass. I also really liked Julia Gillian and the Art of Knowing, and am looking forward to reading the next one.
    I loved A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban, and am crazy about the Moxy Maxwell series, though they're probably classified as CBs rather than younger MG.

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  7. Several quick faves: HARRIET THE SPY - Louise Fitzhugh; THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM - Christopher Paul Curtis; THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE - Jacqueline Kelly; BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA - Katherine Paterson; THE SECRET GARDEN - Frances Hodgson Burnett; THE GRAVEYARD BOOK - Neil Gaiman; THE WESTING GAME - Ellen Raskin; THE MIDWIFE'S APPRENTICE by Karen Cushman.

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  8. Jill, you obviously have excellent taste in books (since I love the 1st four on your list!), so I'll have to read the 5th. Two of my newish favorites are A DROWNED MAIDEN'S HAIR, by Laura Amy Schlitz and THE UNDERNEATH by Kathi Appelt. I've also recently enjoyed CRUNCH by Leslie Connor and OPERATION YES by Sara Holmes.

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  9. ELLA ENCHANTED by Gail Carson Levine - a creative rip on the Cinderella tale.

    Bruce Coville...pretty much anything.

    DEALING WITH DRAGONS by Patricia C. Wrede - a fun, spunky princess who'd rather serve a dragon than deal with stupid knights.

    XANTH SERIES by Piers Anthony. Yes, they're located in the 'Adult' section in bookstores, but I found them extremely accessible and intriguing in middle school.

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  10. LIZZIE BRIGHT AND THE BUCKMINSTER BOY and THE WEDNESDAY WARS, by Gary Schmidt.

    CORALINE, by Neil Gaiman.

    WAITING FOR NORMAL, by Leslie Connor.

    I loved When You Reach Me. So much that we assigned it for summer reading coming into 6th Grade.

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  11. I'm a fantasy fan, too. The Theodosia books by R.L. LaFevers are among my current faves, and Jenny Nimmo's Charlie Bone books are always a great read. And I can't wait for the new sequel to Savvy that's due out soon!

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  12. It's a few years old now, but one that absolutely blew me away was Wendy Mass's A MANGO SHAPED SPACE; also Watt Key's ALABAMA MOON. Both amazingly original, and with incredibly strong voices.

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  13. Middle grade books have gotten progressively better in the past few years. Some great ones that I've taught:
    TANGERINE by Edward Bloor (soccer)
    TEARS OF A TIGER and ROMIETTE & JULIO by Sharon Draper (she's got some great books that my kids really relate to)
    FREAK THE MIGHTY by Rodman Philbrick

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  14. Elizabeth Bird's blog "Fuse #8 Production" did a fabulous Middle Grade Top Ten a while back that you should check out. My favorites include CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, PRINCESS ACADEMY, ELLA ENCHANTED, ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, AND JOHNNY TREMAIN.

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  15. I love Middle Grade. I agree w/ Martha on the Cornelia Funke recommendations. I love Linda Buckley-Archer's THE TIME TRAVELERS trilogy. Kate Messner's THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z and Michael Buckley's THE SISTERS GRIMM series are popular in my house.

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  16. A new favorite of mine is Happy Birthday, Sophie Hartley by Stephanie Greene. She's written many books for the middle grade crowd, but I think this is one of her best!

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  17. My top three faves in no particular order are: PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS by Rick Riordan, GREGOR THE OVERLANDER by Suzanne Collins and THE FARWALKER'S QUEST by Joni Sensel. It's time to reread them all!

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  18. I love: Holes, Frindle, Watsons, Maniac Magee, the Fudge books, Skinnybones, and Walk Two Moons, to name a scant few.

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  19. The Witches by Roald Dahl = Best Middle Grade book ever written.

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  20. I congratulate, a brilliant idea

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  21. My favorite middle grade books are by British author Michelle Magorian.

    Everything she writes brings me to tears and joy. I recommend starting with Goodnight, Mr. Tom (MG), but I also love Back Home (MG), Just Henry and Not a Swan (but these last two are YA). :]

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  22. 39 CLUES Series is great. by far my favorite Is FABLE HAVEN by Brandon mull. There are seven thick volumes but my kids read them in six months.

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  23. Jake by Audrey Couloumbis is a good holiday mid-grade.

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  24. Anything by Louis Sachar--especially HOLES. And anything by Roald Dahl.

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  25. Hey, Middle Grade Ninja! I agree; The Witches by Roald Dahl is one of my favorites! Also, the INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD series is excellent!

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  26. I love Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko. Also, I second the Ink Trilogy by Corneila Funke. Some of my other favorites are:

    *The Shifter by Janice Hardy
    *The Girl Who Threw Butterflies by Mick Cochrane
    *the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
    *The Old Willis Place by Mary Downing Hahn (and anything else she writes)
    *seconding Coraline by Neil Gaiman
    *The Book Thief by Markus Zusac (not sure if this is MG or YA)
    *Savvy by Ingrid Law
    *The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
    *the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer
    *A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (it isn't exactly new, but it's a classic)

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  27. I love the Gilda Joyce series by Jennifer Allison, and also Jack Gantos and Joey Pigza

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  28. Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials ( The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Glass)

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  29. The Tiffany Aching Series by Terry Pratchett starting with "The Wee Free Men".

    Also, on a much older note, E Nesbit's The Enchanted Castle, The House of Arden, and Harding's Luck have also become a few of my favorite middle grade books.
    Some aspects of E. Nesbit's writing are outdated, but several of her stories deserve to be remembered and enjoyed by younger generations.

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  30. I try to read a lot of middle grade since I try to write a lot of middle grade. This week I read THE KID IN THE RED JACKET. It's been around a while, but I loved the humor. Very few books make me laugh out loud, but this one did.

    A few more favorites:

    ON MY HONOR
    MY LOUISIANA SKY
    AFTERNOON OF THE ELVES
    THE TIGER RISING
    WHEN ZACARY BEAVER CAME TO TOWN

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