As I mentioned earlier in the week, books written for the middle grade audience span the full range of genres and styles found in books for written for adults. I've already introduced you to this season's contemporary fiction and more fanciful fiction.
Before I get to the focus of today's post, I want to mention some classes of middle grade books I've omitted this week, simply as a way to narrow down my choices. I did not include books written for the youngest readers in this age group or those that are part of ongoing series. I also left out comics and books containing fun graphics.
Now let's turn to my last fall middle grade roundup: historical fiction, books in verse, and nonfiction. Enjoy!
Taking a Step into the Past
- The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall is about how 13-year-old Arthur paid for one careless act done while still grieving his father's death. Sentenced to work for the very trash picker he injured, Arthur learns that looks can be deceiving and beauty can be hidden beneath the junk. Loosely based on a real folk artist from the 1960s. Major themes: redemption, the importance of art, grief, and friendship. [Knopf, September]
- The Bamboo Sword by Margi Preus is set in 1850s Japan and introduces us to 13-year-old Yoshi, who dreams of being a samurai so he can fight the newly arrived Westerners. But when the realities of impending war catch up with him, Yoshi ends up befriending an American cabin boy who was separated from his ship This action-packed, well-researched story is illustrated with period Japanese art. Major themes: culture clash, prejudice, friendship, and 19th-century Japanese culture. [Amulet, September]
- A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen tells the story of a family that was caught on opposites sides of the Berlin Wall when it went up, virtually overnight, in 1961. Four years later, 12-year-old Gerta, her older brother, and her mother are living under suspicion in East Berlin; is there any hope for freedom? The book includes several period photographs. Major themes: freedom, living under the communist regime, and the personal side of politics and the cold war. [Scholastic, August]
- River Runs Deep by Jennifer Bradbury is set in 1842 and tells the story of 12-year-old Elias's stay in Mammoth Cave, at a kind of hospital that was supposed to cure him of tuberculosis. Elias undergoes much more than medical treatment as he learns of the cave's place in tourism and as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Loosely based on a real story and illustrated with maps. Major themes: 19th-century medical practices, slavery, and friendship. [Atheneum, September]
- I Don't Know How the Story Ends by J. B. Cheaney takes us to Hollywood as World War I is winding down and the movie industry is gearing up and where 12-year-old Izzy befriends a teenage filmmaker who recruits her and her sister as his stars. Izzy learns she has a knack for writing screenplays but has trouble seeing the future as long as her physician father, stationed in France to tend to the wounded, remains in danger. Major themes: family, war, the movie industry, and hope. [Jabberwocky, October]
- Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith is a story of loss and healing told by two boys, one from New England recovering from the death of a friend and the other from NOLA dealing with the after effects of Hurricane Katrina. When the boys meet, they bond, helping each other move forward. Major themes: loss, looking beyond class and ethnic differences, forgiveness, and hope. [Schwartz & Wade, July]
- House Arrest by K. A. Holt is a novel in verse about 12-year-old Timothy, who after being arrested for his only act of theft (for medical supplies for his brother) must serve a year under house arrest. His court-ordered journal tells his story of grief and anger over his much younger brother's illness and his father's desertion. Audience: older MG readers. Major themes: poverty, divorce, and taking responsibility for one's actions. [Chronicle, September]
- Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle is a memoir in verse that readers of all ages can relate to. Most of the very readable poems concern the things Engle sees, dreams of, and learns growing up in California and visiting Cuba before the revolution and cold war politics cut her off from half her family. Affecting, honest, and emotional. The book concludes with a timeline of cold war events. Major themes: culture clash, immigration, family, and personal side of politics. [Atheneum, August]
- Somewhere There Is Still a Sun by Michael Gruenbaum (with Todd Hasak-Lowy) is the memoir of a Holocaust survivor who was incarcerated at the age of nine in a Czechoslovakian transport camp, where he remained for over two years. This age-appropriate story is told in the present tense, giving readers an immediate and personal sense of what it was like for a child to live under unimaginable conditions. Some photographs and family papers illustrate the book. Major themes: survival, will to live, humanity, family, and Nazi policies. [Aladdin, August]
- This Side of Wild by Gary Paulson is a short collection of true tales of the author's encounters with dogs, horses, and more both in the wild and at home. The conversational, informal style of these stories will capture the hearts of animal lovers of all ages. Illustrations and fun facts supplement the text. Major themes: animal behavior, appreciating nature, and adventurous curiosity. [Simon & Schuster, September]