Monday, November 28, 2011

3 Great Middle Grade Novels

At NCTE, I was thrilled to pick up a box full of 2012 middle grade and young adult ARCs. But when I got home, I realized how many 2011 titles I still had on my to-be-read list.  I know myself as a reader and once I dig into the 2012 books, I won't take the time to go back to many of the 2011 books. Once 2012 starts, new books will be coming out fast. I am dying to read Kate Messner's upcoming EYE OF THE STORM (which looks FABULOUS!), but am trying to wait to get some more 2011 books read. Since this blog began as a way for Mary Lee and I to share our thinking around and to predict Newbery winners, I made a list this weekend and there are about 20 that I'd love to read before the new year begins. I won't get to them, but thankfully, my Twitter friends are helping me prioritize.  Over Thanksgiving weekend, I was able to finish 3 middle grade novels and I loved all three of them.

If you know Jennifer Holm, then you know that THE TROUBLE WITH MAY AMELIA will be a good book.  As Betsy Bird says in her review of this book, "Yet thus far Ms. Holm has remained fairly dud-resistant. There’s a level of quality to her writing that pleases consistently"  This is the 2nd story about May Amelia.  From what I understan, you should read the first one first.  But I didn't do that and this one totally stands alone. May Amelia lives in a houseful of brothers and is constantly getting into a bit of trouble.  This books is filled with the stuff of real life. I found myself laughing on one page and then crying on the next.  May Amelia is a character that I fell in love with in the first few pages of the book.

I had not heard of GHETTO COWBOY by Greg Neri until Colby Sharp mentioned it on Twitter last week. Why this book is not getting more buzz is beyond me. This is the story of Cole, a 12 year old boy is gets himself in a lot of trouble. Finally, his mother has had enough and she takes him to live with his father (the father he has never met) in Philadelphia. Cole's father, Harper, runs a stable right in the middle of the city and Cole begins to take to the horses.  This is a great story about a father and a son, a community working to do the right thing, and finding out who you are. And although this is a work of fiction, it is based on a true story. (See video below from Greg Neri's website.)

G. Neri's "Ghetto Cowboy" book trailer from Greg Neri on Vimeo.

I discovered THE UNWANTEDS by Lisa McMann on several Mock Newbery lists. Once the students in our Newbery Club heard about the book, I haven't been able to get a library copy back. It is quite popular with our 5th graders. So, I ended up buying the Kindle version and read it that way. The UNWANTEDS is a great new fantasy. It is a dystopian type story of a place called Quill that gets rid of their "Unwanteds" each year. They get rid of those people that are not obedient, do not follow the rules, have thoughts of their own. And they get rid of them when they are 13 years old. They are taken out of the city to be killed. This is the story of one group of Unwanteds. It is a great good vs. evil story with characters and plot that will hook a variety of readers. It definitely feels like a classic and the story will appeal to a variety of readers.   I am always looking for great new fantasies and this is one that I think will be popular for years to come.


  1. Ok, had to buy Ghetto Cowboy after you and Colby have talked about it so much and then read your review here. Already have the other two in my stack to read. So many books, so little time.

  2. Three books with unusual themes...thank you for sharing these!
    Also, I'd lover to host Poetry Friday on January 20th. if that is still free.

  3. I am devouring The Unwanteds right now. I can't wait to get it into my students hands....they will love it!

  4. Can't wait to read Ghetto Cowboy. It looks amazing! Thanks for the recommendation.

  5. Both 'Ghetto Cowboy' and 'The Unwanteds' sound fabulous. Did 'The Unwanteds' remind you of Lois Lowry's 'The Giver' in some ways? It would seem as though kids who love 'The Giver' would be captivated by this book as well.

  6. The Unwanteds didn't specifically remind me of The Giver. It wasn't quite as deep/heavy. But it did remind me of several classic/favorite fantasies for this age.


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