MMGM: Spooky Middle Grade Reads

I know, I know. It’s not October yet, but it will be at the end of this week and I just can’t contain myself from posting a list of books for middle grade readers of all ages to get into the spooky mood.

I’ve put together my top 13 books, because 13 just seems like a spooky number, don’t you agree? Here are the books I like to read when October rolls around and the air gets a chill in it, the leaves start falling off the trees, and the ghosts and witches come out to their favorite haunting places.

Once again, I’ll start with a classic Halloween tale. One that I still enjoy today.

halloweentree

Publisher’s Description:

“A fast-moving, eerie…tale set on Halloween night. Eight costumed boys running to meet their friend Pipkin at the haunted house outside town encounter instead the huge and cadaverous Mr. Moundshroud. As Pipkin scrambles to join them, he is swept away by a dark Something, and Moundshroud leads the boys on the tail of a kite through time and space to search the past for their friend and the meaning of Halloween. After witnessing a funeral procession in ancient Egypt, cavemen discovering fire, Druid rites, the persecution of witches in the Dark Ages, and the gargoyles of Notre Dame, they catch up with the elusive Pipkin in the catacombs of Mexico, where each boy gives one year from the end of his life to save Pipkin’s. Enhanced by appropriately haunting black-and-white drawings.”–Booklist

dollbones

Publisher’s Description:

Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for ever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a magical world of adventure and heroism. But disaster strikes when, without warning, Zach’s father throws out all his toys, declaring he’s too old for them. Zach is furious, confused and embarrassed, deciding that the only way to cope is to stop playing . . . and stop being friends with Poppy and Alice. But one night the girls pay Zach a visit, and tell him about a series of mysterious occurrences. Poppy swears that she is now being haunted by a china doll – who claims that it is made from the ground-up bones of a murdered girl. They must return the doll to where the girl lived, and bury it. Otherwise the three children will be cursed for eternity . . .

elsewhere

Publisher’s Description:

Old Ms. McMartin is definitely dead. Now her crumbling Victorian mansion lies vacant. When eleven-year-old Olive and her dippy mathematician parents move in, she knows there’s something odd about the place–not least the walls covered in strange antique paintings. But when Olive finds a pair of old spectacles in a dusty drawer, she discovers the most peculiar thing yet: She can travel inside these paintings to a world that’s strangely quiet . . . and eerily like her own. Yet Elsewhere harbors dark secrets–and Morton, an undersized boy with an outsize temper. As she and Morton form an uneasy alliance, Olive finds herself ensnared in a plan darker and more dangerous than she could have imagined, confronting a power that wants to be rid of her by any means necessary. It’s up to Olive to save the house from the dark shadows, before the lights go out for good.

(This whole series is a fun one for kids. I previously reviewed the fourth book in the series as part of round up HERE.)

thegraveyardbook

Publisher’s Description:

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family…


shadows

(Upper Middle Grade/borderline YA)

Publisher’s Description:

From the remarkable imagination of acclaimed artist Jim Di Bartolo and the exquisite pen of bestselling author Kiersten White comes a spellbinding story of love, mystery, and dark conspiracy, told in an alternating narrative of words and pictures.

Cora and Minnie are sisters living in a small, stifling town where strange and mysterious things occur. Their mother runs the local boarding house. Their father is gone. The woman up the hill may or may not be a witch.

Thomas and Charles are brothers who’ve been exiled to the boarding house so Thomas can tame his ways and Charles can fight an illness that is killing him with increasing speed. Their family history is one of sorrow and guilt. They think they can escape from it . . . but they can’t.

(I previously reviewed this book in full HERE.)

curiosity

Publisher’s Description:

What you will find in this book:

– A rather attractive bearded lady
– Several scandalous murders
– A deliciously disgusting Amazonian shrunken head
– Four extraordinary children with equally extraordinary abilities
– A quite loquacious talking bird

Blessed with extraordinary abilities, orphans Philippa, Sam, and Thomas have grown up happily in Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. But when a fourth child, Max, a knife-thrower, joins the group, it sets off an unforgettable chain of events. When the museum’s Amazonian shrunken head is stolen, the four are determined to get it back. But their search leads them to a series of murders and an explosive secret about their pasts.

This sensational new series combines the unparalleled storytelling gifts of Lauren Oliver with the rich
knowledge of the notorious relics collector H.C. Chester.

What you will NOT find in this book:

– An accountant named Seymour
– A never-ending line at the post office
– Brussel sprouts (shudder)
– A lecture on finishing all your homework on time
– A sweet, gooey story for nice little girls and boys.

(There are two books in this series so far, the third to come out next April.)

lieslandpo

(Lauren Oliver writes magically, spooky middle grade)

Publisher’s Description:

Liesl lives in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother. Her only friends are the shadows and the mice,until one night a ghost appears from the darkness. It is Po, who comes from the Other Side. Both Liesl and Po are lonely, but together they are less alone.

That same night, an alchemist’s apprentice, Will, bungles an important delivery. He accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing something decidedly less remarkable.

Will’s mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey.

thenest

Publisher’s Description:

Steve just wants to save his baby brother—but what will he lose in the bargain? This is a haunting gothic tale for fans of Coraline, from acclaimed author Kenneth Oppel (Silverwing, The Boundless) with illustrations from Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen.

For some kids summer is a sun-soaked season of fun. But for Steve, it’s just another season of worries. Worries about his sick newborn baby brother who is fighting to survive, worries about his parents who are struggling to cope, even worries about the wasp’s nest looming ominously from the eaves. So when a mysterious wasp queen invades his dreams, offering to “fix” the baby, Steve thinks his prayers have been answered.

All he has to do is say “Yes.” But “yes” is a powerful word. It is also a dangerous one. And once it is uttered, can it be taken back?

(I previously reviewed the book in full HERE.)

accidental

Publisher’s Description:

Grave robbing is a messy business. A bad business.

And for Thomas Marsden, on what was an unremarkable spring night in London, it becomes a very spooky business. For lying in an unmarked grave and half covered with dirt is a boy the spitting image of Thomas himself.

This is only the first clue that something very strange is happening. Others follow, but it is a fortune teller’s frightened screams that lead Thomas into a strange world of spiritualists, death and faery folk.

Faery folk with whom Thomas’s life is bizarrely linked. Faery folk who need his help.

Desperate to unearth the truth about himself and where he comes from, Thomas is about to discover magic, and ritual, and that sometimes, just sometimes, the things that make a boy ordinary are what make him extraordinary.

penegrine

(By posting the first I am endorsing the whole series)

Publisher’s Description:

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.

A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

serafina

Publisher’s Description:

Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of the Biltmore estate. There’s plenty to explore in her grand home, although she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists; she and her pa, the estate’s maintenance man, have secretly lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember.

But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows who the culprit is: a terrifying man in a black cloak who stalks Biltmore’s corridors at night. Following her own harrowing escape, Serafina risks everything by joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt, the young nephew of the Biltmore’s owners. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak’s true identity . . . before all of the children vanish one by one.

Serafina’s hunt leads her into the very forest that she has been taught to fear. There she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic, one that is bound to her own identity. In order to save the children of Biltmore, Serafina must seek the answers that will unlock the puzzle of her past.

yearofshadows

Publisher’s Description:

Olivia Stellatella is having a rough year.

Her mother’s left, her neglectful father—the maestro of a failing orchestra—has moved her and her grandmother into the city’s dark, broken-down concert hall to save money, and her only friend is Igor, an ornery stray cat.

Just when she thinks life couldn’t get any weirder, she meets four ghosts who haunt the hall. They need Olivia’s help—if the hall is torn down, they’ll be stuck as ghosts forever, never able to move on.

Olivia has to do the impossible for her shadowy new friends: Save the concert hall. But helping the dead has powerful consequences for the living…and soon it’s not just the concert hall that needs saving.

cabinet

Publisher’s Description:

A collection of thirty-six eerie, mysterious, intriguing, and very short short stories presented by the cabinet’s esteemed curators, otherwise known as acclaimed authors Stefan Bachmann, Katherine Catmull, Claire LeGrand, and Emma Trevayne. Perfect for fans of Alvin Schwartz and anyone who relishes a good creepy read-alone or read-aloud story. Features an introduction and commentary by the curators, and illustrations and decorations throughout.

For more fun Middle Grade Reads visit Shannon Messenger’s Blog for

MMGM2

MMGM: WISHING DAY by Lauren Myracle

wishingday

Title: WISHING DAY

Author: Lauren Myracle

Publication Date: May 3, 2016

Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books

Publisher’s Description:

On the third night of the third month after a girl’s thirteenth birthday, every girl in the town of Willow Hill makes three wishes.

The first wish is an impossible wish.
The second is a wish she can make come true herself.
And the third is the deepest wish of her secret heart.

Natasha is the oldest child in a family steeped in magic, though she’s not sure she believes in it. She’s full to bursting with wishes, however. She misses her mother, who disappeared nearly eight long years ago. She has a crush on one of the cutest boys in her class, and she thinks maybe it would be nice if her very first kiss came from him. And amid the chaos of a house full of sisters, aunts, and a father lost in grief, she aches to simply be…noticed.

So Natasha goes to the willow tree at the top of the hill on her Wishing Day, and she makes three wishes. What unfolds is beyond anything she could have imagined.

I am a huge Lauren Myracle fan (and her posse of CP’s and co-writers) so I was super interested to see her go in a new direction of sorts with this book WISHING DAY.

I was happy to find that all of the things I love about Myracle’s books like the teenage angst, teenage embarrassment, teenage relationships, teenage laughter, teenage lightness, teenage love … was all there, but was caught up in a swirl of magic that made it even better.

Before I read this book, I had heard some people were confused by this, that there wasn’t enough focus or direction. I disagree. I think it was realistic in the fact that Natasha, the main character, was lost in her life and we, as the reader, follow her through a winded path.

Life isn’t always straight forward and easy, with endings tied up in neat, pretty bows. It is messy and complicated, even if you believe in magic and wishes that come true.

Natasha has a lot going on in her life and is burdened by a mother who left her, a father who is mourning, sister’s who seem to have who they are figured out even though they are younger, a best friend who is bossy and she’s kind of not fitting with her the way she always has, and a crush on a boy who she’s never spoken to.

Add on top of this the pressure of going to a Willow Tree on the third night of the third month after you thirteenth birthday and only getting to choose three wishes that will most certainly affect the rest of your life … that is, if you believe in those things. Which is half the struggle for the characters in this book. Even if you feel that magic, there are life-events which will make you forget or push it away. Even after you make three wishes, the doubts start coming in that maybe you wished for the wrong things, and your hopes get so high, waiting for your wishes to come true, even as those around you are sending mixed messages as to whether or not wishes coming true is even a real thing.

I loved the characters in this book. The sisters were just like me and my sisters were. All at once best friends and each other’s biggest defenders, but the most annoying pests and sometimes furiating competition I’d ever seen. They make this book. The aunts played a big part in the mystery/secrets of it all, and the school drama with best friends and boyfriends is Myracle’s specialty, but the sisters were all that was shiny about this book. Aside from the magical town, that is.

Everyone who reads this blog knows I am a believer in magic and love to see it in books, am drawn to them. I meant to put this book in last week’s post about Magical Realism, but left it out and it’s even better because now I can rave about it in detail.

WISHING DAY has something for everyone, even an ending that begs for a second book, because although I know the character’s can work things out for themselves, and I don’t mind wondering what that is in my head, I am eager to return to the story and see what other magical mysteries Myracle has in store for us.

For more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday recommendations, visit Shannon Messenger’s Blog.

MMGM2

 

MMGM: Magical Realism in Middle Grade

As a writer of magical realism, I am an avid reader of magical realism as well. There are always people asking, what is magical realism? What are your favorite books that include magical realism? Today, I will try to answer those questions.

To me, magical realism is an every day setting that is infused with magic, but not in a fantastical way like wizards or magicians. In a way that it is part of the setting and world, part of the characters themselves. That the story wouldn’t be complete without this magical element.

Also, usually, this magical element is easily accepted in the story. People don’t gawk or doubt, they just know it exists as part of life. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. In my own writings I do show a little hesitancy in parts, but there are other stories I write that the magic is just a part of normal life.

I write magical realism because I love to think that magic is real. I would love to live in a world where bits of magic happen every day and no one thinks twice about it. I think that’s why a lot of people read: to believe in magic. To step outside the real world they live in, if even for an afternoon. Magical realism blends the real world and the magic so there is no clear boundary.

In middle grade especially, the kids will go to school. They will interact with their families and with their towns. They will like that cute boy/girl. But there will be something special and magical about it. Magical realism books are like dreams/nightmares: little alterations to the real world, that while you’re dreaming them, it’s like it’s how it was always supposed to be. It’s only when you wake up you realize you can’t really lift a thousand pounds or travel across the country in one night. But what if you could?

Here is a short list of some of my favorite Middle Grade magical realism books. I have many more recs in this genre, and plenty in YA or Adult if anyone is interested, but for the sake of this post, I’m sticking to Middle Grade. (In no particular order, although I will say all of these stories received 4 or 5 star ratings from me.)

All of these are more recent, but I couldn’t start a list without mentioning the magical realism book that’s held my heart since I was very young, one that I still re-read on a regular basis.

tuck

Publisher’s Description: Doomed to – or blessed with – eternal life after drinking from a magic spring, the Tuck family wanders about trying to live as inconspicuously and comfortably as they can. When ten-year-old Winnie Foster stumbles on their secret, the Tucks take her home and explain why living forever at one age is less a blessing that it might seem. Complications arise when Winnie is followed by a stranger who wants to market the spring water for a fortune.

breadbox

Publisher’s Description: A magical breadbox that delivers whatever you wish for—as long as it fits inside? It’s too good to be true! Twelve-year-old Rebecca is struggling with her parents’ separation, as well as a sudden move to her Gran’s house in another state. For a while, the magic bread box, discovered in the attic, makes life away from home a little easier. Then suddenly it starts to make things much, much more difficult, and Rebecca is forced to decide not just where, but who she really wants to be. Laurel Snyder’s most thought-provoking book yet.

monster

Publisher’s Description: The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

stead

(These two books from Rebecca Stead are two of my all time favorite:)

Publisher’s Description: For the first time, Newbery Medal–winning Rebecca Stead’s two brilliant books are available together in an eBook-only omnibus.
In the award-winning When You Reach Me, readers uncover an astonishing New York City puzzle with Miranda. Someone is sending her anonymous notes, and each one reveals more about a mystery that changes her life forever.
Stead’s debut novel, First Light, is a dazzling tale of science, secrets, and adventure at the top of the world. While on a research expedition with his family, Peter discovers a hidden world beneath the arctic ice of Greenland, and meets Thea, a bold explorer.

ivan

(Some people may not consider books like this or PAX, but I do)

Publisher’s Description: Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

snickerkey

(Natalie Lloyd is a modern front-runner in magical realism)

SNICKER Publisher’s Description: Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers. But that was long ago, before a curse drove the magic away. Twelve-year-old Felicity knows all about things like that; her nomadic mother is cursed with a wandering heart.

But when she arrives in Midnight Gulch, Felicity thinks her luck’s about to change. A “word collector,” Felicity sees words everywhere—shining above strangers, tucked into church eves, and tangled up her dog’s floppy ears—but Midnight Gulch is the first place she’s ever seen the word “home.” And then there’s Jonah, a mysterious, spiky-haired do-gooder who shimmers with words Felicity’s never seen before, words that make Felicity’s heart beat a little faster.

Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch more than anything, but first, she’ll need to figure out how to bring back the magic, breaking the spell that’s been cast over the town . . . and her mother’s broken heart.

KEY Publisher’s Description: Everyone in Emma’s family is special. Her ancestors include Revolutionary War spies, brilliant scientists, and famous musicians–every single one of which learned of their extraordinary destiny through a dream.

For Emma, her own dream can’t come soon enough. Right before her mother died, Emma promised that she’d do whatever it took to fulfill her destiny, and she doesn’t want to let her mother down.

But when Emma’s dream finally arrives, it points her toward an impossible task–finding a legendary treasure hidden in her town’s cemetery. If Emma fails, she’ll let down generations of extraordinary ancestors . . . including her own mother. But how can she find something that’s been missing for centuries and might be protected by a mysterious singing ghost?
savvy

(and series…)

Publisher’s Description: For generations, the Beaumont family has harbored a magical secret. They each possess a “savvy” -a special supernatural power that strikes when they turn thirteen. Grandpa Bomba moves mountains, her older brothers create hurricanes and spark electricity . . . and now it’s the eve of Mibs’s big day.

As if waiting weren’t hard enough, the family gets scary news two days before Mibs’s birthday: Poppa has been in a terrible accident. Mibs develops the singular mission to get to the hospital and prove that her new power can save her dad. So she sneaks onto a salesman’s bus . . . only to find the bus heading in the opposite direction. Suddenly Mibs finds herself on an unforgettable odyssey that will force her to make sense of growing up-and of other people, who might also have a few secrets hidden just beneath the skin.

tangleclatter

TANGLE Publisher’s Description: Told in multiple viewpoints, A Tangle of Knots is a magnificent puzzle. In a slightly magical world where everyone has a Talent, eleven-year-old Cady is an orphan with a phenomenal Talent for cake baking. But little does she know that fate has set her on a journey from the moment she was born. And her destiny leads her to a mysterious address that houses a lost luggage emporium, an old recipe, a family of children searching for their own Talents, and a Talent Thief who will alter her life forever. However, these encounters hold the key to Cady’s past and how she became an orphan. If she’s lucky, fate may reunite her with her long-lost parent.

CLATTER Publisher’s Description: In this companion to A Tangle of Knots, it’s summertime and everyone is heading off to camp. For Talented kids, the place to be is Camp Atropos, where they can sing songs by the campfire, practice for the Talent show, and take some nice long dips in the lake. But what the kids don’t know is that they’ve been gathered for a reason–one that the camp’s director wants to keep hidden at all costs.

Meanwhile, a Talent jar that has been dropped to the bottom of the lake has sprung a leak, and strange things have begun to happen. Dozens of seemingly empty jars have been washing up on the shoreline, Talents have been swapped, and memories have been ripped from one camper’s head and placed into another. And no one knows why.

sticks

Publisher’s Description: Ever since she was a baby, the words people use to describe Elyse have instantly appeared on her arms and legs. At first it was just “cute” and “adorable,” but as she’s gotten older and kids have gotten meaner, words like “loser” and “pathetic” appear, and those words bubble up and itch. And then there are words like “interesting,” which she’s not really sure how to feel about. Now, at age twelve, she’s starting middle school, and just when her friends who used to accept and protect her are drifting away, she receives an anonymous note saying “I know who you are, and I know what you’re dealing with. I want to help.” As Elyse works to solve the mystery of who is sending her these notes, she also finds new ways to accept who she is and to become her best self.

seventh

Publisher’s Description: Charlie feels like she’s always coming in last. From her Mom’s new job to her sister’s life at college, everything seems more important than Charlie. Then one day while ice fishing, Charlie makes a discovery that will change everything . . . in the form of a floppy fish offering to grant a wish in exchange for freedom. Charlie can’t believe her luck but soon realizes that this fish has a very odd way of granting wishes as even her best intentions go awry. But when her family faces a challenge bigger than any they’ve ever experienced, Charlie wonders if some things might be too important to risk on a wish fish.

butterfliesfireflies

(You can’t go wrong with Kimberly Griffiths Little, these are just 2 of hers)

BUTTERFLIES Publisher’s Description: Everybody thinks Tara Doucet has the perfect life. But in reality, Tara’s life is anything but perfect: Her dear Grammy Claire has just passed away, her mother is depressed and distant, and she and her sister Riley can’t seem to agree on anything. But when mysterious and dazzling butterflies begin to follow her around after Grammy Claire’s funeral, Tara just knows in her heart that her grandmother has left her one final mystery to solve.

A strange butler brings Tara and Riley to Grammy Claire’s house, where Tara finds a stack of keys and detailed letters from Grammy Claire herself. Note by note, Tara learns unexpected truths about her grandmother’s life. As the letters grow more ominous and the clues more difficult to decipher, Tara realizes that the secrets she must uncover could lead to mortal danger. And when Tara and Riley are swept away to the beautiful islands of Chuuk to hear their grandmother’s will, Tara discovers the most shocking truth of all — one that will change her life forever.

FIREFLIES Publisher’s Description: When Larissa Renaud starts receiving eerie phone calls on a disconnected old phone in her family’s antique shop, she knows she’s in for a strange summer. A series of clues leads her to the muddy river banks, where clouds of fireflies dance among the cypress knees and cattails each evening at twilight. The fireflies are beautiful and mysterious, and they take her on a magical journey through time, where Larissa learns secrets about her family’s tragic past–deadly, curse-ridden secrets that could harm the future of her family as she knows it. It soon becomes clear that it is up to Larissa to prevent history from repeating itself and a fatal tragedy from striking the people she loves.

With her signature lyricism, Kimberley Griffiths Little weaves a thrilling tale filled with family secrets, haunting mystery, and dangerous adventure.

breadcrumbs

Publisher’s Description: Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. They had been best friends since they were six, spending hot Minneapolis summers and cold Minneapolis winters together, dreaming of Hogwarts and Oz, superheroes and baseball. Now that they were eleven, it was weird for a boy and a girl to be best friends. But they couldn’t help it – Hazel and Jack fit, in that way you only read about in books. And they didn’t fit anywhere else.

And then, one day, it was over. Jack just stopped talking to Hazel. And while her mom tried to tell her that this sometimes happens to boys and girls at this age, Hazel had read enough stories to know that it’s never that simple. And it turns out, she was right. Jack’s heart had been frozen, and he was taken into the woods by a woman dressed in white to live in a palace made of ice. Now, it’s up to Hazel to venture into the woods after him. Hazel finds, however, that these woods are nothing like what she’s read about, and the Jack that Hazel went in to save isn’t the same Jack that will emerge. Or even the same Hazel.

Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” Breadcrumbs is a story of the struggle to hold on, and the things we leave behind.

 

 

 

MMGM: SOME KIND OF HAPPINESS by Claire Legrand

SKOH

(oh my goodness, this cover!)

Title: SOME KIND OF HAPPINESS

Author: Claire Legrand

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Publish Date: May 17, 2016

Publisher’s Description:

THINGS FINLEY HART DOESN’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT

• Her parents, who are having problems. (But they pretend like they’re not.)
• Being sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer.
• Never having met said grandparents.
• Her blue days—when life feels overwhelming, and it’s hard to keep her head up. (This happens a lot.)

Finley’s only retreat is the Everwood, a forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. Until she discovers the endless woods behind her grandparents’ house and realizes the Everwood is real–and holds more mysteries than she’d ever imagined, including a family of pirates that she isn’t allowed to talk to, trees covered in ash, and a strange old wizard living in a house made of bones.

With the help of her cousins, Finley sets out on a mission to save the dying Everwood and uncover its secrets. But as the mysteries pile up and the frightening sadness inside her grows, Finley realizes that if she wants to save the Everwood, she’ll first have to save herself.

Reality and fantasy collide in this powerful, heartfelt novel about family, depression, and the power of imagination.

My Championing:

Every once in while a book comes along that really speaks to you. That makes you want to pick up every book this author has ever written. Makes you wonder how you’ve gone this long without reading their words. Convinces you to buy every book they ever write in the future.

 
SOME KIND OF HAPPINESS is one of those books for me.
I wanted to pull Finley out of the pages and hug her close. Help her with her darkness and her blue days. Explore with her in Everland. Struggle with her through her 10-year-old life.

 
This book felt so real that I felt depressed, anxious, and breathless as I was reading it … even though when it was done, I couldn’t stop smiling. That’s not saying the ending is tied up in a neat bow, it’s just one of those books that I was so happy I read. And it’s not saying the book is depressing, it isn’t. I was just pulled into Finley’s head and world so completely that when she felt something, I felt it right along with her.

 
Legrand’s prose was on pointe, as was her ability to not just set the place, but the mood and the tone: the atmosphere. SKOH has so much atmosphere.

 
This book is one of those real issues books that are good for young readers today. I didn’t deal with anxiety or depression as a child, but have had bouts and days of it as an adult, and I know there are children who do experience this. How special and important is it for them to see themselves on the page and know they are not alone. How many kids do you know who have had to deal with their parents’ divorce or even talk of it? How many have family secrets? Are exploring relationships and wondering how to fit in? There are so many real kid characters in this book, it’d be hard for a kid to not find themselves or their situation.

 
As a reader and a storyteller, there is a special appreciation for the representation of words and stories and imagination healing a broken heart/soul. Everwood is the place Finley writes about when she is so blue she needs a place to escape. When her Everwood world starts entwining with the real world, it is magical, mysterious, and makes your heart break and burst.

 
The importance of truth is an important theme. We need to be truthful with ourselves, with our family, with our communities, or tangled webs are weaved and there isn’t always a way out. In this book, there isn’t always a way out.

 

But the characters are living. And they are trying. And there is love, and trust, and betrayal, and forgiveness, and playfulness, and emptiness, and tender moments, and life-changing hours. Causes you to remember not to judge a book by its cover, or a white house with a picket fence by it’s appearance, or a well-dressed, put together, smiling person by theirs.

 

Be true to yourself, be honest about your feelings (allow yourself to feel), allow yourself to heal.

 

This is part of MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY over on Shannon Messenger’s Blog, where there’s always other middle grade reads to find out about.

MMGM2

MMGM: Bucket List Books For Kids

I think there is never a bad time to make a bucket list for your life. We make one at the New Year. We make one for the summer. For things we want to do for the holidays. They help us to see our goals and achieve them.

My kids and I have been talking about bucket lists, and they’re making one of things they want to accomplish for the upcoming school year.

In the spirit of Bucket Lists, I wanted to highlight two Bucket List books I find so adorable and the perfect way to show the concept to children if they are interested in the idea.

judymoody

Publisher’s Description:

Drumroll, please: Judy Moody is about to become a poop-scooping, hinny-riding, one-girl band extraordinaire as she takes on her very own Bucket List.

Judy is visiting Grandma Lou one day when she accidentally finds an uber-mysterious list of activities — a Bucket List! Which gives Judy an idea: How rare would it be if she made her own way-official bucket list of all the things she wants to do—before she starts fourth grade? Pretty soon Judy is off and running trying to cross off all her items: learn to do a cartwheel, invent something rad, go to Antarctica (the real one), ride a horse—the list goes on. But what happens if Grandma Lou achieves everything on her list? Does that mean she’ll be ready to . . . kick the bucket?

Seriously, Judy Moody has been a part of our lives for years. We’ve read them all, multiple times. Out loud and for silent reading. Judy is so lovable in all of her true humanness and ability to make mistakes and learn from them.

This book is  little different for Judy though, because she’s worried about a big time thing: maybe her grandma is dying? Why else would she make a bucket list if she wasn’t?

To prove to herself that bucket lists can be for everyone, she makes her own and comes up with creative ways to check items and experiences off of her list. Luckily, her little brother Stink is by her side.

Megan McDonald doesn’t disappoint with this latest Judy Moody book. Judy is growing up, thinking more outside of herself, and we find out more about her relationships outside of her core family.

Recommend for fans of Judy Moody and for early readers who are wanting a bit more of a challenge.

bffbucketlist

Publisher’s Description:

Ella and Skyler have been best friends since kindergarten—so close that people smoosh their names together like they’re the same person: EllaandSkyler. SkylerandElla.

But Ella notices the little ways she and Skyler have been slowly drifting apart. And she’s determined to fix things with a fun project she’s sure will bring them closer together—The BFF Bucket List. Skyler is totally on board.

The girls must complete each task on the list together: things like facing their fears, hosting a fancy dinner party, and the biggest of them all—speaking actual words to their respective crushes before the end of summer. But as new friends, epic opportunities, and super-cute boys enter the picture, the challenges on the list aren’t the only ones they face.

And with each girl hiding a big secret that could threaten their entire friendship, will the list–and their BFF status–go bust?

This book is SO MUCH FUN!

It totally took me back to my tween days where there was so much going on. Old friends, new friends … boyfriends. Feeling like you can’t grow up fast enough, but please, can time slow down a little. So many emotions. So confusing.

So when these two girls feel like they are growing in different directions, they find a thing to tie them together and send them down the same path.

All of the items on the bucket list are good examples of things kids can do. I loved the random acts of kindness and facing their fears. Both things that are important for kids to practice in their lives.

Also, it’s okay to not be able to control everything and to accept changes and moments as they come. (Life-long battle, not just for teenagers)

The voice was amazing. The girls were funny and lovable (as were the side characters.) I wanted to spend my life at The Donut.

It’s rare to find a book that makes me laugh out loud and also feel like there is an important message and truth to it all. Dee Romito hit all the right notes with this one and I am recommending it to any tween girl I know.

You can go to her website and make a bucket list of your own. There are different types of bucket lists, like I mentioned above, and then ideas you can click on to add to your list, or build your own.

What are you waiting for? Go ahead, read these books, and make your own list!

MMGM2

This is part of Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday on her blog. There’s so many other fun reviews linking up so go check them out!

MMGM: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

littleprince

With a timeless charm it tells the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behaviour through a series of extraordinary encounters. His personal odyssey culminates in a voyage to Earth and further adventures.

Truthfully, I had a whole other blog post written for today, but I watched the new Netflix movie of The Little Prince with my kids, which inspired me to revisit the book (which is quite a quick read, even when you let the words repeat and sink in).

I read this book when I was very young, and then again when I was just the average young. Now, my youngness (I know that’s not a word) is slipping from me and I see the story differently.

Usually, I rave about Middle Grade on here and say, “read them yourself, read them to your kids!” This one is different for me.

“All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.” – The Little Prince

The whole concept of this story, the most beautiful parts, were totally lost on my kids. Granted, they are very young, and maybe as teenagers they would get it a little bit more, but I’m not so sure this book is properly appreciated until you finally realize what it is Saint-Exupery is trying to say.

When you are turning 33 but you still cling to the magic of childhood and try to see the world through the eyes of your children. When you are all at once the pilot, and the little prince. You know what the rose means and what the fox represents.

But you know you still don’t remember being a child exactly right, even in your attempt to hold on tight.

I don’t want to be the adult who misses the elephant inside of the boa constrictor and only sees the hat. But, at the same time, I know that being a grown-up comes with wisdom, too, and that I wouldn’t love lines like this if I were still a caterpillar and not a butterfly:

“What makes the desert beautiful,’ said the little prince, ‘is that somewhere it hides a well…”  – The Little Prince

So now, in rediscovering this classic, I am once again looking for the well in the desert. I am cherishing my relationships, and putting the work in. I am more earnest about the search for my inner child. I am looking up at the starry night sky, searching for what once was, and I will laugh.

“All men have stars, but they are not the same things for different people. For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides. For others they are no more than little lights in the sky. For others, who are scholars, they are problems… But all these stars are silent. You-You alone will have stars as no one else has them… In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars will be laughing when you look at the sky at night..You, only you, will have stars that can laugh! And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me… You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure… It will be as if, in place of the stars, I had given you a great number of little bells that knew how to laugh”  – The Little Prince

 

 

What I’m Reading Wednesday: OLYMPICS! Picture Book Edition

The OLYMPICS! are a huge deal in our house. We love watching, cheering, and feeling with all of these amazing athletes. We’ve picked up a few picture books to help prepare for the OLYMPICS! and we enjoyed them so much I had to share.

There’s even a special book about Brazil we checked out to get to know the host country a little bit better.

Here they are in no particular order and with no review from me (aside from me saying here that the words were wonderful, the illustrations were lively, the books (both non-fiction and fiction) were inspriring and taught important life lessons.)

olympig

Publishers Description:

Just in time for the Olympics, a spirited, sporty romp about losing gracefully

Boomer the Pig has been training hard for the Animal Olympics, so when he loses his first race, he shrugs it off and cheerfully moves on. One event after another, Boomer keeps losing, and the frustration begins to get to him. But even after coming in last in every sport, there’s no getting this Olympig down. It’s just great practice for the Winter Games!

Cool comic book styling combines with classic picture book heart in this encouraging and hilarious story for every kid who’s ever been told “you can’t win ’em all.”

nadia

Publisher Description:

Nadia Comaneci was a feisty and fearless little girl who went from climbing trees in the forests of Romania to swinging into history at the 1976 Olympic Games, where she received an unprecedented seven perfect scores in gymnastics. But as readers will see in this first-ever illustrated picture book about Nadia’s journey to Olympic gold, the road from small-town girl to world-class athlete was full of many imperfect moments.       Expert illustrations that capture the energy and fluidity of Nadia’s exuberant gymnastic routines and referential back matter round out this inspirational story of determination and overcoming adversity. A perfect 10.

gisforgold

Publisher Description:

From the first games held in ancient Greece to the cultural extravaganzas of recent years, there have been some incredible and amazing events and milestones in the world of Olympic sports. Now in G is for Gold Medal: An Olympics Alphabet, writer Brad Herzog showcases those athletes and events that not only set sports records but also impacted history and world views. Learn the meaning behind the five interlocking rings featured on the Olympic flag. Cheer on American Jim Thorpe as he won the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, only to lose his medals later. Read how the man dubbed as the “world’s laziest high jumper” won the gold in 1968 and later had a jump named after him. All these moments and more are brought to life in G is for Gold Medal.

8goldmedals

Publisher Description:

What does it take to win eight gold medals?

Napping away three summer vacations?

Eating enough broccoli to fill the back of a pickup truck?

Swimming the length of the Great Wall of China three times?

caillou

Publisher Description:

Clementine arrives at Caillou’s house wearing a blue ribbon. Caillou wonders how he could ever win such a prize. This gives Grandma an idea. She decides to organize backyard Olympic games with competitions like the heel-to-toe walk, the biggest smile or the silliest walk. In the end, everyone gets a ribbon — even Gilbert,for having the best purr. Caillou will learn that winning is not as important as having fun with his friends.

greek

Publisher Description:

You (the reader) are a small boy living near Athens during the mid-5th century B.C. Your father sends you off to school to learn about the arts and athletics. It is his hope that someday you will honor the family by competing in the Olympic Games. As you train and compete in the games you will get an insider’s look at what events are held, such as the pentathlon, running, and wrestling. After reading this book there will be no doubt in your mind that this is definitely a race you’d rather not run.

frog

Publisher Description:

Laugh out loud with this wonderfully funny and charming picture book story about frogs coming together from around the world to particpate in and celebrate their ‘Frog Olympics’.

The rhyming text is brilliant to read out loud at home or in the classroom.

Great for discussion starters about the Olympics and to talk about inclusion and how people, or frogs, of every size and ability can take part in the Olympics.


dreambig

Publisher Description:

Long before he became a professional All-Star basketball player, Michael Jordan had dreams of winning an Olympic gold medal—and with dedication and perseverance, that’s exactly what he did. This heartwarming picture book, written by Michael’s mother and illustrated by Barry Root, gives a rare glimpse into a sports hero’s childhood and emphasizes the role that good values play in success. An ideal companion to the New York Times bestselling Salt in His Shoes and releasing in time for the 2012 Olympics, Dream Big is an inspiration to all.

elympics

Publisher Description:

Get ready for figure skating, diving, slalom racing, and more–elephant style! X. J. Kennedy’s cast of spirited pachyderms compete for gold medals in the Elympics. This collection of fast-paced poetry will have you laughing and cheering as each new character strives in a different event. Some are as graceful as a bird. Other are as clumsy as a toad. Some crash land, but win by a nose. You never know what will happen when good-natured elephants throw their weight around and go for the gold medal.

touch

Publisher Description:

A biography of the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal, from her childhood in segregated Albany, Georgia, in the 1930s, through her recognition at the 1996 Olympics as one of the hundred best athletes in Olympic history. Includes bibliographical references.

winners

Publisher Description:

Mia Hamm, American soccer champion and best–selling author of Go for the Goal, tells a true–life–inspired story of learning that winning and losing aren’t as important as being part of a team.

More than anyone, soccer superstar Mia Hamm knows the value of teamwork and perseverance. She shares this lesson, paired with energetic illustrations by Carol Thompson, in this motivational story perfect for soccer kids and their soccer moms!

brazil

Publisher Description:

Just in time for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, discover what it’s like growing up in Brazil with this fascinating, nonfiction Level 2 Ready-to-Read, part of a new series all about kids just like you in countries around the world!

Olá! My name is Marco, and I’m a kid just like you living in Brazil. Brazil is a country filled with beautiful rain forests, bustling cities, and world-class sports. Have you ever wondered what living in Brazil is like? Come along with me to find out!