Tuesday, October 13, 2009

2 Great New Novels for Middle School

I had a great reading week reading 2 new books that I picked up at the book fair this week. Both books are pretty heavy reads. Both deal with tough topics and both are amazing reads. I was reading them, thinking they might be good for our K-5 library but after reading them, I think they would be better at the middle school level. There might be a few students in the upper elementary who would enjoy them, but they struck me as perfect for grades 6th-7thish.

First, I read Gary Paulsen's new book, NOTES FROM THE DOG. This is different from lots of Paulsen's other books although as usual, he has a great character that you come to connect with very quickly. Finn is a teenage boy who likes to spend time by himself--doesn't feel like he fits in anywhere. He lives with his father , his dog, and he has a few good friends. His one good friend, Matthew is an important character in the story. In early summer, Johanna moves next door. She quickly becomes friends with Finn and his family and seems to bring out the best in everyone. Johanna is undergoing treatment for breast cancer and is also training for an event to support breast cancer. Just like Finn, as a reader, I sometimes forgot that Johanna was going through pretty difficult chemotherapy. A very real life story that deals with a hard topic. I haven't read much for this age group that deals with breast cancer but this book is an amazing one that to me, seems realistic and honest. Even though Johanna is an important character in the story, it is Finn who is the character who changes and whose story this is. This is a great coming of age story--a story of Finn who, because of Johanna becomes comfortable with who he is. A GREAT read.

I was so excited to see a new title by Katherine Paterson. She is one of my all-time favorite authors. But, I had forgotten that Katherine Paterson doesn't write about easy things. She takes on topics of people who are often going through hard times. THE DAY OF THE PELICAN drew me in and I think there were pages and pages where I completely forgot to breathe. It was a painful read but a hopeful read. The book is the story of an Albanian family who lived in Kosovo. Caught in a war, they escape the country and then eventually apply to move to the United States. The main character in the story is Meli, a thirteen year old girl. Her world is turned upside down by events that no one can predict or control. Paterson does her usual great job of making this authentic. The pain and terror that this family goes through in the story is real. So many issues that families in war torn countries endure. As with all of Paterson's books, it is not an easy read. But Meli will stay with me forever, just as Gilly, Jess and Leslie do. The story is based on a family that Paterson knows and she includes some historical information on Kosovo following the story. For me, this book was an important read. Reading fictional accounts of the things people are experiencing has always been important for me to better understand what is going on in the world.

I don't often make the time to read YA books but I am so glad that I read these two.


  1. They are two of my favorite authors-glad to see they have new titles available. Thanks for your good reviews.

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