Tag Archives: historical fiction

New Middle Grade Books: September 2016

So many new books this month —  and this is just a sampling! We’ve listed 35 novels here. Take a look:

FICTION:

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How to Avoid Extinction by Paul Acampora (fiction)
Since the death of his grandfather, Leo’s number one chore has been to chase after his grandmother who seems to wander away from home every few days. Now, Gram’s decided to roam farther than ever. And despite his misgivings, Leo’s going along for the ride. With his 17-year-old cousin, Abbey, and an old, gassy dog named Kermit, Leo joins Gram in a big, old Buick to leave their Pennsylvania home for a cross-country road trip filled with foldout maps, family secrets, new friends, and dinosaur bones.

Insert Coin to Continue by John David Anderson (fiction)
One day Bryan wakes up to find out his life has become a video game. Sort of. Except instead of fighting dragons or blasting bad guys, he’s still doing geometry and getting picked last for dodgeball. It’s still middle school. Only now there’s much more at stake.

Unbound: A Novel in Verse by Ann E. Burg (fiction)
With candor and compassion, Ann E. Burg unearths a startling chapter of American history — the remarkable story of runaways who sought sanctuary in the wilds of the Great Dismal Swamp — and creates a powerful testament to the right of every human to be free.

The Ungrateful Dead by Rose Cooper (fiction)
When a ghost girl named Harper begs Anna to help her rejoin the living, Anna warns her that it’s impossible. Once you’re dead, you can’t just start living again…or can you? Includes morbidly-cute black-and-white illustrations.

William and the Witch’s Riddle by Shutta Crum (fiction/Adventure)
When William is visited by a mysterious witch named Morga, it seems his and his little brother’s lives might be in danger—unless they help the witch solve a riddle and find a dark family heirloom. A charming reimagination of Sleeping Beauty.

Truth or Dare by Barbara Dee (fiction)
When Lia returns after a summer with her eccentric aunt, it feels like everything has changed within her group of five friends. And after playing a game of Truth or Dare, Lia discovers how those divides are growing wider, and tells a few white lies about what really happened over the summer in order to “keep up.”

The Inquisitor’s Tale Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz and Hatem Aly (historical fiction)
Adam Gidwitz takes on medieval times in an exciting and hilarious middle grade adventure about class, history, religion…and farting dragons. Featuring manuscript illuminations throughout.

Jubilee by Patricia Reilly Giff (fiction)
Judith stopped talking years ago after her mother left. Now she communicates entirely through gestures and taps, and by drawing cartoons, speaking only when she’s alone—or with Dog. Then she discovers that her mother has moved back to the mainland, nearby. If Jubilee finds her, will her mother’s love be what she needs to speak again?

Children of Exile by Margaret Peterson Haddix (fantasy)
For the past twelve years, adults called “Freds” have raised Rosi, her younger brother Bobo, and the other children of their town, saying it is too dangerous for them to stay with their parents, but now they are all being sent back. Since Rosi is the oldest, all the younger kids are looking to her with questions she doesn’t have the answers to. She’d always trusted the Freds completely, but now she’s not so sure.

George and the Unbreakable Code by Stephen Hawking, Lucy Hawking, Garry Parsons (fiction/adventure)
Banks are handing out free money, supermarkets aren’t able to charge for their produce so people are getting free food, and aircrafts are refusing to fly. It looks like the world’s biggest and best computers have all been hacked. It’s up to George and Annie to travel further into space than ever before in order to find out what—or who—is behind it.

The Forgetting Machine by Pete Hautman (fiction)
Absentmindedness in Flinkwater, a town overflowing with eccentric scientists and engineers, is nothing new. But when Ginger’s true love and future husband Billy Bates completely forgets who she is, things suddenly get serious, and Ginger swings into action.

The Other Boy by M.G. Hennessey (fiction)
Twelve-year-old Shane Woods is just a regular boy. He loves pitching for his baseball team, working on his graphic novel, and hanging out with his best friend, Josh. But Shane is keeping something private, something that might make a difference to his teammates, to Josh, and to his new crush, Madeline. And when a classmate threatens to reveal his secret, Shane’s whole world comes crashing down. A heartfelt story about a transgender boy’s journey towards acceptance and empathy.

One Half from the East by Nadia Hashimi (fiction)
Obayda’s father lost one of his legs in a bomb explosion, forcing the family to move from their home city of Kabul to a small village, where life is very different and Obayda’s father almost never leaves his room. One day, Obayda’s aunt has an idea to bring the family luck—dress Obayda, the youngest of her sisters, as a boy, a bacha posh. Life in this in-between place is confusing, but once Obayda meets another bacha posh, everything changes.

Howard Wallace, P.I. by Casey lyall (mystery)
Twelve-year-old Howard Wallace lives by his list of rules of private investigation. When a hot case of blackmail lands on his desk, he’s ready to take it on himself . . . until the new kid, Ivy Mason, convinces him to take her on as a junior partner. As they banter through stakeouts and narrow down their list of suspects, Howard starts to wonder if having Ivy as a sidekick—and a friend—is such a bad thing after all.

The Most Frightening Story Ever Told by Philip Kerr (mystery)
Billy Shivers doesn’t have a lot of excitement in his life. He prefers to spend his days reading alone in the Hitchcock Public Library. So it is a bit out of character when he finds himself drawn to the Haunted House of Books, and a competition daring readers to survive an entire night inside. But the frights of the store itself are nothing compared to the stories it holds.

Beautiful Blue World by Suzanne LaFleur (historical fiction)
Sofarende is at war. For 12-year-old Mathilde, it means food shortages, feuding neighbors, and bombings. But the army is recruiting children, and paying families well for their service. If Megs takes the test, Mathilde knows she will pass. Her friend Megs hopes the army is the way to save her family. Mathilde fears it might separate them forever.

The Bad Kid by Sarah Lariviere (mystery)
Claudeline Feng LeBernardin learns what it really means to be bad in this colorful and hilarious mystery. When a very strange character by the name of Alma Lingonberry shows up in the neighborhood, Claude gets closer to the crime life than ever. Before long, she’s swept up in a maddening mystery that’s got her wondering: What does it really mean to be bad?

More Than Magic by Kathryn Lasky (fiction/adventure)
Ryder Holmsby is the same age as Rory, the popular TV cartoon character her animator parents created. And then: Shazam! Rory jumps out of the TV into Ryder’s bedroom to tell her that the TV studio behind her parents’ show is trying to turn Rory into a dopey princess—no more adventures. She needs Ryder’s help! The two girls team up with a crew of animated and real-life friends to save the day in both worlds.

Charmed, I’m Sure by Sarah Darer Littman (fairy tales and folklore)
Meet Rosie White Charming. You probably know her parents, Snow and Prince. Yup—that Snow and Prince. You would think that being the only daughter of two of the most famous people in fairy tale history would be awesome. But you would be wrong…

A Long Pitch Home by Natalie Dias Lorenzi (fiction)
Ten-year-old Bilal liked his life back home in Pakistan. He was a star on his cricket team. But when his father suddenly sends the family to live with their aunt and uncle in America, nothing is familiar. Maybe if Bilal can prove himself on the pitcher’s mound, his father will make it to see him play. But playing baseball means navigating relation-hips with the guys, and with Jordan, the only girl on the team—the player no one but Bilal wants to be friends with.

Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure by Ann M. Martin (fiction)
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle has gone away unexpectedly and left her niece, Missy Piggle-Wiggle, in charge of the Upside-Down House and the beloved animals who live there: Lester the pig, Wag the dog, and Penelope the parrot, among others. Families in town soon realize that, like her great-aunt, Missy Piggle-Wiggle has inventive cures for all sorts of childhood (mis)behavior: the Whatever Cure and the Just-a-Minute Cure, for instance. What is a stressed-out parent to do? Why, call Missy Piggle-Wiggle, of course!

Enter a Glossy Web by Ruebush McKenna and Jaime Zollars (fantasy)
Twelve-year-old George has no idea what to expect when she’s sent to stay with eccentric relatives following the disappearance of her brother. Soon after her arrival, she learns that Uncle Constantine — the Timekeeper — has been kidnapped. If he’s not rescued, events will cease to happen at their designated times, disrupting the unfolding of the universe.

Going Wild by Lisa McMann (fiction/Adventure)
Charlie Wilde knew her life would change forever when her family moved from Chicago to Arizona—but she had no idea how right she’d really be after she discovers a mysterious bracelet. She’s suddenly able to run across the soccer field as fast as a cheetah and lift heavy objects as if she were as strong as an elephant. Of course, Charlie would be thrilled about her transformation if she had any idea how the bracelet works or how to control her amazing powers. So she and her new friends must work together to figure out what’s happening to her and uncover the truth behind the incredible device.

Write This Down by Claudia Mills (fiction)
Autumn decides that she is going to become a published author–now! She writes an essay about her changing relationship with her brother, enters it in a contest, and wins, and her dream of publication is within reach. But if her essay is published, everyone will know her family’s secrets. Is being published worth hurting those you love?

Fishbone’s Song by Gary Paulsen (fiction)
Deep in the woods, in a rustic cabin, lives an old man and the boy he’s raised as his own. This sage old man has taught the boy the power of nature and how to live in it, and more importantly, to respect it. In Fishbone’s Song, this boy reminisces about the magic of the man who raised him and the tales that he used to tell—all true, but different each time.

The Best Man by Richard Peck (fiction)
When Archer is in sixth grade, his beloved uncle Paul marries another man—Archer’s favorite student teacher. But that’s getting ahead of the story, and a wonderful story it is. In Archer’s sweetly naïve but observant voice, his life through elementary school is recounted: the outspoken, ever-loyal friends he makes, the teachers who blunder or inspire, and the family members who serve as his role models. From one exhilarating, unexpected episode to another, Archer’s story rolls along as he puzzles over the people in his life and the kind of person he wants to become…and manages to help his uncle become his best self as well.

Two Naomis by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick (fiction)
A heartwarming contemporary middle grade novel about two girls named Naomi—one black, one white—whose divorced parents begin to date. Other than their first names, Naomi Marie and Naomi Edith are sure they have nothing in common, and they wouldn’t mind keeping it that way

The Courage Test by James Preller (fiction)
A father-and-son journey along the Lewis and Clark Trail–from Fort Mandan to the shining sea–offers readers a genre-bending blend of American history, thrilling action, and personal discovery.

The Memory Wall by Lev AC Rosen (fiction)
Severkin is an elf who slinks through the shadows of Wellhall’s spiraling stone towers, plundering ancient ruins and slaying mystical monstrosities with ease. He’s also a character in a video game—a character that twelve-year-old Nick Reeves plays when he needs a break from the real world. And lately, Nick has really needed a break. His mother had an “incident” at school last year, and her health has taken a turn for the worse.

The Dark Talent: Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson (fantasy)
Alcatraz Smedry has successfully defeated the army of Evil Librarians and saved the kingdom of Mokia. Too bad he managed to break the Smedry Talents in the process. Even worse, his father is trying to enact a scheme that could ruin the world, and his friend, Bastille, is in a coma. To revive her, Alcatraz must infiltrate the Highbrary–known as The Library of Congress to Hushlanders–the seat of Evil Librarian power. Without his Talent to draw upon, can Alcatraz figure out a way to save Bastille and defeat the Evil Librarians once and for all? Book 5.

Mark of the Plague by Kevin Sands (fantasy)
The Black Death has returned to London, spreading disease and fear through town. A mysterious prophet predicts the city’s ultimate doom—until an unknown apothecary arrives with a cure that actually works. Christopher’s Blackthorn shop is chosen to prepare the remedy. But when an assassin threatens the apothecary’s life, Christopher and his faithful friend Tom are back to hunting down the truth, risking their lives to untangle the heart of a dark conspiracy.

Be Like a Bird by Monika Schroder (fiction)
After the death of her father, twelve-year-old Wren finds her life thrown into upheaval. And when her mother decides to pack up the car and forces Wren to leave the only home she’s ever known, the family grows even more fractured. As she and her mother struggle to build a new life, Wren must confront issues with the environment, peer pressure, bullying, and most of all, the difficulty of forgiving those who don’t deserve it. A quirky, emotional middle grade novel set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula,

Bounce by Megal Shull (fiction)
Seventh-grader Frannie Hudson wonders what it would be like to trade in her family for a new one. Her big brother ignores her. Her mean older sister can’t stand her. And her parents have just announced they’re going on a last-minute vacation—without her. When Frannie makes one desperate, crazy wish—BOOM!—she magically bounces into a whole new life—with a totally different family. AND. IT. IS. AMAZING! There’s only one catch: waking up as someone else keeps happening. Frannie begins to worry if she’ll ever get back home.

The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart and Diana Sudyka (mystery)
When Reuben discovers an extraordinary antique watch, he soon learns it has a secret power and his life takes an intriguing turn. At first he is thrilled with his new treasure, but as one secret leads to another, Reuben finds himself torn between his innately honest nature and the lure to be a hero.

Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry by Susan Vaught (Mystery)That’s Dani’s Grandma Beans has Alzheimer’s and Dani isn’t sure about anything any more,  like why Mac Richardson suddenly doesn’t want to be her friend, and why Grandma Beans and Avadelle Richardson haven’t spoken in decades. Lately, Grandma Beans doesn’t make a lot of sense. But when she tells Dani to find a secret key and envelope that she’s hidden, Dani can’t ignore her. So she investigates, with the help of her friend, Indri, and her not-friend, Mac. Their investigation takes them deep into the history of Oxford, Mississippi, and the riots surrounding the desegregation of Ole Miss. The deeper they dig, the more secrets they uncover. Were Grandma Beans and Avadelle at Ole Miss the night of the Meredith Riot? And why would they keep it a secret?

 

 

 

Historical Fiction: A century of characters you ought to know

Sure, historical fiction has the power to transport you to a different era, immerse you in a new situation and maybe teach you a lesson along the way. But that’s probably not how middle grade readers describe why they like certain books. Most likely, they’ll talk about the characters, and maybe about the setting, and most certainly slip in some insights about how things were different — and how feelings were very much the same as now — so long ago. When historical middle grade is at its best, readers connect and can imagine themselves in that world, in that situation.

Looking back to the last century, here are 10 books — one set in each decade — to fuel that imagination and ground compassion.

What are your favorite middle grade novels set in 20th century decades? It would be wonderful to get your ideas in the comments, and have this as a resource for teachers, librarians, and parents — and the middle grade readers in our lives.

Interview with Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu + Giveaway

Today we have on the blog an interview with Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu, author of SOMEWHERE AMONG, a beautiful and haunting debut novel in verse about an American-Japanese girl struggling with the loneliness of being caught between two worlds when the tragedy of 9/11 strikes an ocean away. Read on for the interview and a chance to win this lovely book!

somewhere among

What inspired SOMEWHERE AMONG?

Our life in Japan! I have lived and raised my children in a binational, bicultural, bilingual, multi-generational home in Tokyo for the past 24 years. Clashes, comedic scenarios and common ground have provided much introspection. Although I don’t see myself as a writer of Asian topics, there were a few things I wanted to share in children’s non-fiction magazine articles and picture books. I found it difficult to fill in the spaces of what American children know.

I started a children’s photo blog in 2006 when my youngest child was in fifth grade. That satisfied the desire to show modern Japan. I later started a novel set in Texas (my home state). After the earthquake and tsunami of 2011, I had to ground myself in Japan. Emotions and images and memories of our life and our nations’ shared history rushed into poems that turned into this story.

At the story’s center is a paper doll that a woman had handed me on the train in my early days here. The doll came with the message “May Peace Prevail on the Earth.” I had tried to write a picture book about that, but the story was too big for 32 pages.

The 2011 disaster spurred me to write about Japan and the paper doll was the inspiration and motivation to try to tell its story again.

What kind of research did you do to tell this story?

I had started out with what I remembered. Then after the first draft, I used news reports, newspaper articles, weather data, and websites like NASA’s. The storyline didn’t change much from the first drafts. Through revisions it was a matter of making sure the timeline was correct and layering details.

The school and family life details were inspired by but altered from our experience. My children went through the Japanese public system and we lived in a multi-generational home. I couldn’t have written this story without that experience. It would have been very shallow.

Hearing the story of 9/11 from the perspective of an American living overseas is fascinating. Is that something you planned from the beginning, or did it come out in the writing process?

I didn’t set out to write about 9-11. This story came about through grounding myself by reminiscing. Sitting down to write about our life and memories here, I couldn’t get very far before 9-11 came up.

However, the sinking of the Japanese fishing boat, the Ehime Maru actually came up first. That incident exemplified the struggle (I especially felt) to reconcile the history and tragedies that my children’s two nations share. I distinctly remember that sadness and the months of TV coverage. The fishing ship tragedy happened in February 2001.

So, through writing this story, I was dragged into dealing with 9-11 again. I was dealing with aftershocks at our Tokyo home and the grief of the tsunami damage from a distance. It was not easy to deal with this. I could have easily avoided writing this story.

What are some books of poetry or novels in verse you would recommend for kids?

Oh! I have to say that I have limited access to English books because of price and place. I cannot afford all the books I would love to buy and our local library only has two or three short shelves of Newbery winners. No verse novels.

The only verse novel I had read before I started Somewhere Among was Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. Holly Thompson’s young adult novel, Orchards, had arrived just before the earthquakes of 2011. I knew it was about suicide so I didn’t get to read it until after the aftershocks and I had written my first draft. I discovered and read Susan Taylor Brown’s Hugging the Rock. I also learned of and read Thanhha Lai’s middle grade Inside Out and Back Again after it had won the Newbery. I read Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming last summer. All of those are wonderful.

Since attending Highlights Foundations Verse Novel workshop in 2012, I have read and enjoyed the work of instructors Virginia Euwer Wolf, Sonya Sones, and Linda Oatman High and attendees K.A. Holt, Sarah Tregay, and Madeleine Kuderick. There are future verse novelists from that group to watch out for.

Helen Frost, Margarita Engle, Mariko Nagai, Leza Lowitz and Holly Thompson’s books are on my wish list. There are many other verse novels I would love to read. Most of them are for young adults. I read and write mostly for middle grade readers 9-12 so middle grade novels are my first choice of purchase now.

Children’s poetry anthologies aren’t particularly age-specific. All anthologies and books by Lee Bennett Hopkins are great. My children loved You be Good I’ll be Night by Eve Merriam. Talking Like the Rain by X.J. Kennedy and Dorothy Kennedy. My favorite children’s poets are Joyce Sidman, Janet Wong, Helen Frost, Charles Ghigna, Gwendolyn Brooks, Elizabeth Coatsworth.

I enjoy the video interviews that Lee Bennett Hopkins and Renee La Tulippe produce about children’s poets. There are so many wonderful things done for poetry for children. Sylvia Vardell’s blog www.poetryforchildren.com . Poetry Minute for younger readers www.poetryminute.org and Poetry 180 for older readers www.loc.gov/poetry/180

 

Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu lives in Tokyo, Japan. Her work has been published in Hunger Mountain, Highlights, Highlights High Five, Y.A.R.N., and other magazines. She received a grant from the Highlights Foundation to attend Chautauqua in 2009. Somewhere Among won the 2013 Writers’ League of Texas award in the middle grade category and is her debut novel.

For a chance to win a copy of SOMEWHERE AMONG, please leave a comment below by noon Eastern time on Monday, May 30th. If you tweet about the contest, we can give you an extra entry. Continental U.S. only, please (sorry! It’s the postage!).

Katharine Manning sighed her way through the lovely SOMEWHERE AMONG. She is a middle grade writer of dreamy fantasies and fast-paced soccer books. To see more of her raving about middle grade books, visit Kid Book List. You can also find her at www.katharinemanning.com and on Twitter.